The tomato. Grow them or eat them. There’s nothing quite like them. Read on and check out some fabulous recipes at the link below.
It’s tomato time! That wonderful time of year when our summer gardens finally give up their fresh, ripe, glorious tomatoes. For me, I can’t get enough. Right out of the garden, or a basket-full from the farmer’s stand down the road, I’m in tomato heaven. For breakfast, we’ll devour them drizzled with a little olive oil alongside scrambled eggs. Lunch means magnificent BLTs of course, or just cut up alongside a sandwich or in a salad. At snack time, you can’t beat a perfectly ripe tomato simply sliced into wedges and sprinkled with a little sea salt (and a dash of pepper – no one can eat a tomato without pepper!). And when dinner rolls around, we consult the recipes.
Thanks to Wikipedia for the insights and history and allrecipies.com for the amazing recipes – I think Jackie and I will try every single one before the harvest season is over. (tomato/cucumber salad with onions … stop the bus!!) Here are some of our must-have recipes when tomatoes are at their peak. And remember, keep those garden-fresh tomatoes out of the fridge — Cold dulls flavor. Enjoy! (and if you have an abundance from the garden, just drop them off at KHT headquarters – I’ll be sure to lap them up and share with the crew).
- The word “tomato” comes from the Spanish tomate, which in turn comes from the Nahuatl word tomatl meaning “the swelling fruit. The native Mexican tomatillo is tomate meaning “fat water” or “fat thing”. When the Aztecs started to cultivate the Andean fruit to be larger, sweeter, and red, they called the new species xitomatl (or jitomates) (pronounced [ʃiːˈtomatɬ]) “plump with navel” or “fat water with navel”).
- The usual pronunciations of “tomato” are /təˈmeɪtoʊ/ (usual in American English) and /təˈmɑːtoʊ/ (usual in British English). The word’s dual pronunciations were immortalized in Ira and George Gershwin’s 1937 song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”.
- Botanically, a tomato is a fruit, a berry, consisting of the ovary, together with its seeds, of a flowering plant. However, the tomato is also considered a “culinary vegetable” because it has a much lower sugar content than culinary fruits, typically served as part of a salad or main course of a meal, rather than as a dessert. Tomatoes are not the only food source with this ambiguity; bell peppers, cucumbers, green beans, eggplants, avocados, and squashes of all kinds (such as zucchini and pumpkins) are all botanically fruits, yet cooked as vegetables.
- Of course, this confusion led to legal dispute in the United States. In 1887, U.S. tariff laws that imposed a duty on vegetables, but not on fruits, caused the tomato’s status to become a matter of legal importance. The U.S. Supreme Court settled this controversy on May 10, 1893, by declaring that the tomato is a vegetable, based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use, as they are generally served with dinner and not dessert (Nix v. Hedden (149 U.S. 304)).
- Tomato plants are dicots, and grow as a series of branching stems, with a terminal bud at the tip that does the actual growing. When that tip eventually stops growing, whether because of pruning or flowering, lateral buds take over and grow into other, fully functional, vines. Tomato vines are also typically pubescent, meaning covered with fine short hairs. These hairs facilitate the vining process, turning into roots wherever the plant is in contact with the ground and moisture, especially if the vine’s connection to its original root has been damaged or severed.
- As a true fruit, tomatoes develop from the ovary of the plant after fertilization, its flesh comprising the pericarp walls. The fruit contains hollow spaces full of seeds and moisture, called locular cavities. These vary, among cultivated species, according to type. Some smaller varieties have two cavities, globe-shaped varieties typically have three to five, beefsteak tomatoes have a great number of smaller cavities, while paste tomatoes have very few, very small cavities.
- The first commercially available genetically modified food was a variety of tomato named the Flavr Savr, which was engineered to have a longer shelf life. Scientists continue to develop tomatoes with new traits not found in natural crops, such as increased resistance to pests or environmental stresses. Other projects aim to enrich tomatoes with substances that may offer health benefits or provide better nutrition.
- An international consortium of researchers from 10 countries began sequencing the tomato genome in 2004, and is creating a database of genomic sequences and information on the tomato and related plants. The Tomato Genetic Resource Center, Germplasm Resources Information Network, AVRDC, and numerous seed banks around the world store seed representing genetic variations of value to modern agriculture.
- While individual breeding efforts can produce useful results, the bulk of tomato breeding work is at universities and major agriculture-related corporations, resulting in significant regionally adapted breeding lines and hybrids. Corporations including Heinz, Monsanto, BHNSeed, and Bejoseed have breeding programs that attempt to improve production, size, shape, color, flavor, disease tolerance, pest tolerance, nutritional value, and numerous other traits.
- The tomato is native to western South America. Wild versions were small, like cherry tomatoes, and most likely yellow rather than red. A member of the deadly nightshade family, tomatoes were erroneously thought to be poisonous by Europeans who were suspicious of their bright, shiny fruit.
- Aztecs and other peoples in Mesoamerica used the fruit in their cooking. The exact date of domestication is unknown; by 500 BC, it was already being cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas. The Pueblo people are thought to have believed that those who witnessed the ingestion of tomato seeds were blessed with powers of divination. (hence the expression – “God, this is good” – ha.)
- Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés may have been the first to transfer the small yellow tomato to Europe after he captured the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, in 1521, although Christopher Columbus may have taken them back as early as 1493. The earliest discussion of the tomato in European literature appeared in an herbal written in 1544 by Pietro Andrea Mattioli, an Italian physician and botanist, who suggested that a new type of eggplant had been brought to Italy that was blood red or golden color when mature and could be divided into segments and eaten like an eggplant—that is, cooked and seasoned with salt, black pepper, and oil.
- After the Spanish colonization of the Americas, the Spanish distributed the tomato throughout their colonies in the Caribbean. They also took it to the Philippines, from where it spread to southeast Asia and then the entire Asian continent. The Spanish also brought the tomato to Europe. It grew easily in Mediterranean climates, and cultivation began in the 1540s. It was probably eaten shortly after it was introduced, and was certainly being used as food by the early 17th century in Spain.
- The recorded history of tomatoes in Italy dates back to at least 1548, when the house steward of Cosimo de’ Medici, the grand duke of Tuscany, wrote to the Medici private secretary informing him that the basket of tomatoes sent from the grand duke’s Florentine estate at Torre del Gallo “had arrived safely”.
- Tomatoes were grown mainly as ornamentals early on after their arrival in Italy. The earliest discovered cookbook with tomato recipes was published in Naples in 1692, though the author had apparently obtained these recipes from Spanish sources. Unique varieties were developed over the next several hundred years for uses such as dried tomatoes, sauce tomatoes, pizza tomatoes, and tomatoes for long-term storage. Most often the names corresponded to the place or origin.
- In America, the earliest reference to tomatoes being grown is from 1710, when herbalist William Salmon reported seeing them in the South Carolina area, possibly introduced from the Caribbean. By the mid-18th century, they were cultivated on some Carolina plantations, and probably in other parts of the Southeast as well.
- Alexander W. Livingston receives much credit for transforming the tomato from its natural state in which it produced small, sour fruits, and for developing numerous other varieties of tomato for both home and commercial gardeners. When Livingston began his attempts to develop the tomato as a commercial crop, his aim had been to grow tomatoes smooth in contour, uniform in size, and sweet in flavor. In 1870, Livingston introduced the Paragon, and tomato culture soon became a great enterprise in the county. He eventually developed over seventeen different varieties of the tomato plant.
- In 2014, world production of tomatoes was 170.8 million tons, with China accounting for 31% of the total, followed by India, the United States and Turkey as the major producers. In 2014, tomatoes accounted for 23% of the total fresh vegetable output of the European Union, with more than half of this total coming from Spain, Italy and Poland.
- Tomato varieties can be divided into categories based on shape and size:
- Beefsteak tomatoes are 10 cm (4 in) or more in diameter, often used for sandwiches and similar applications. Their kidney-bean shape, thinner skin, and shorter shelf life makes commercial use impractical.
- Plum tomatoes, or paste tomatoes (including pear tomatoes), are bred with a lower water /higher solids content for use in tomato sauce and paste, for canningand sauces and are usually oblong 7–9 cm (3–4 in) long and 4–5 cm (1.6–2.0 in) diameter; like the Roma-type tomatoes.
- Cherry tomatoes are small and round, often sweet tomatoes, about the same 1–2 cm (0.4–0.8 in) size as the wild tomato.
- Grape tomatoes are smaller and oblong, a variation on plum tomatoes.
- Campari tomatoes are sweet and noted for their juiciness, low acidity, and lack of mealiness, bigger than cherry tomatoes, and smaller than plum tomatoes.
- Tomberries, tiny tomatoes, about 5 mm in diameter
- Oxheart tomatoes can range in size up to beefsteaks, and are shaped like large strawberries.
- Pear tomatoes are pear-shaped and can be based upon the San Marzano types for a richer gourmet paste.
- “Slicing” or “globe” tomatoes are the usual tomatoes of commerce, used for a wide variety of processing and fresh eating. The most widely grown commercialtomatoes tend to be in the 5–6 cm (2.0–2.4 in) diameter range.
- To facilitate transportation and storage, tomatoes are often picked unripe (green) and ripened in storage with ethylene, a hydrocarbon gas that many fruits produce, which acts as the molecular cue to begin the ripening process. Unripe tomatoes are firm. As they ripen they soften until reaching the ripe state where they are red or orange in color and slightly soft to the touch. Tomatoes ripened in this way tend to keep longer, but have poorer flavor and a mealier, starchier texture than tomatoes ripened on the plant.
- A machine-harvestable variety of tomato (the “square tomato”) was developed in the 1950s by University of California, Davis’s Gordie C. Hanna, which, in combination with the development of a suitable harvester, revolutionized the tomato-growing industry. This type of tomato is grown commercially near plants that process and can tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. They are harvested when ripe and are flavorful when picked. They are harvested 24 hours a day, seven days a week during a 12- to 14-week season, and immediately transported to packing plants, which operate on the same schedule.
- A massive “tomato tree” growing inside the Walt Disney World Resort’s experimental greenhouses in Lake Buena Vista, Florida may have been the largest single tomato plant in the world. The plant has been recognized as a Guinness World Record Holder, with a harvest of more than 32,000 tomatoes. The vine grew golf ball-sized tomatoes, which were served at Walt Disney World restaurants. Unfortunately, the tree developed a disease and was removed in April 2010 after about 13 months of life.
- Tomatoes keep best unwashed at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. It is not recommended to refrigerate them as this can harm the flavor. Tomatoes stored cold tend to lose their flavor permanently. Storing stem down can prolong shelf life, t may keep from rotting too quickly.
- The US city of Reynoldsburg, Ohio calls itself “The Birthplace of the Tomato”, claiming the first commercial variety of tomato was bred there in the 19th century.
Go to Allrecipes.com now! They have some great, great recipes for your tomatoes…