The tomato is a wonderfully popular and versatile food that comes in over a thousand varieties that vary in shape, size and colour.
Although tomatoes are a fruit in the botanical sense, they don’t have the dessert quality sweetness of other fruits. Instead, they have a subtle sweetness that is complemented by a sightly bitter and acidic taste. Cooking tempers the acid and bitter qualities in tomatoes and brings out the warm and rich sweetness.
Tomatoes belong to the night-shade family of plants, along with potatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, pepinos, pimentos, paprika and cayenne. Tomatoes contain alkaloids, which are substances that, even in small doses, can be associated with adverse reactions in sensitive individuals. But, it is also true that the level of alkaloids found in night-shade foods are well tolerated by many individuals in diets worldwide.
While most often associated with lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient widely recognized for its antioxidant properties, tomatoes provide a unique variety of phytonutrients. They also contain additional carotenoids (including beta-carotene, lutien and zeaxanthin), flavonoids, hydroxycinnamic acids, glycosides and fatty acid derivatives.
Tomatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum and vitamin IC. They are also a very good source of copper, potassium, manganese, dietary fibre, vitamin A and phosphorus. Additionally they are also a good source of chromium, pantothenic acid, protein, choline, zinc and iron.
Tomatoes are easy to cook and versatile in their use. To make your own tomato paste, sauté a couple of cloves of garlic and one or two chopped onions for a couple of minutes in olive oil until they are translucent. Add 8 – 10 chopped tomatoes and several teaspoons of chopped fresh herbs. Simmer for 30 – 45 minutes. Drizzle with more olive oil and add some sea salt and freshly ground pepper. For a fancier version, sauté chopped olives and mushrooms along with the garlic and onions. And if you are pressed for time, try our homemade tomato sauce.
This week Zucchini and Zest adds a few more varieties of organic tomatoes; rosa tomatoes and the specialty mix, a variety of tomatoes in different sizes and colours. Enjoy!