Tomato: It's a Fruit
Currently, tomatoes are one of the most popular fruits eaten by Americans. Tomatoes are members of the fruit family, but they are served and prepared as a vegetable. This is why most people consider them a vegetable and not a fruit. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A.
A Byte of Tomato History
The tomato seems to have originated on the western coast of South America, in present day Peru, where eight species in the tomato genus still grow wild in the Andes Mountains. It seems to have been domesticated in Central America.
This was around the time the Spanish explorer Cortez conquered the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, later to be renamed Mexico City, in 1521. It is presumed that the tomato found its' way across the Atlantic shortly after.
- Tomatoes are lipophilic, which means their nutritional value is increased by being cooked in some fat.
- Cooked tomatoes may be more beneficial to your health than raw tomatoes.
- Tomatoes are rich in vitamins (A, C, Calcium) and fiber.
- Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant Lycopene.
Spicy tomato tea has been known to relieve cold symptoms. It works fast, and is very easy to prepare. It can alleviate sinus congestion, ear infection, sore throat, coughing and it kills fungal infections, such as Candida. It's also a natural remedy for strep throat and it kills flu germs.
There may also be an association between heart health and tomatoes. In a study conducted by University of North Carolina scientists, the fat samples drawn from both heart attack sufferers and healthy controls were analyzed for lycopene and other carotenoids. I'll share the favored recipe in my home - you can grow to really appreciate this recipe, especially when a cold strikes.
Did you know that a can of tomatoes is loaded with vitamin C, fiber, potassium and iron? What makes these ruby gems even more special is their rich load of lycopene, which becomes more bioavailable to your body when it is cooked. Lycopene has a host of benefits, including inactivating free radicals, protecting against cancer and slowing the development of atherosclerosis which leads to heart disease. Stir canned tomatoes into pasta dishes, soups, stews, curries, casseroles, Mexican dishes and side dishes for delicious, nutritious comfort.
Three Tomato Tips
- To remove skin of tomatoes, place them in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes. The skin can easily be peeled off.
- When tomatoes are not available or are too costly, substitute with tomato puree, tomato sauce or ketchup.
- Place over-ripe tomatoes in cold water and add salt. They will become firm and fresh overnight.
Tomato Tea Recipe
2 cups V8 Juice
2 or 3 crushed garlic cloves
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Hot Sauce to taste (as hot as you can tolerate)
Combine all ingredients in small saucepan; warm over low heat. Sip the tea slowly and allow the fumes to enter the sinuses by holding it in the back of your throat. Reheat the mixture as needed, and drink as much of it as you want. If you don't have hot sauce you can substitute red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, horseradish, black pepper, mustard or fresh hot peppers. They all have anti-bacterial and fungal properties, which are essential for clearing out the sinuses and fighting infections.
There are thousands of tomato varieties. The most widely available varieties are classified in three groups: cherry, plum, and slicing tomatoes. A new sweet variety like the cherry tomato is the grape tomato, really wonderful to eat alone or in a salad.
Tomatillos are smaller than regular tomatoes, and have a papery husk. Similar in taste to tomatoes, they add a sharp, sour-like flavor to recipes and are very good for you.
Cold temperatures damage tomatoes, so never buy tomatoes that are stored in a cold area. Choose plump tomatoes with smooth skins that are free from bruises, cracks, or blemishes. Depending on the variety, ripe tomatoes should be completely red or reddish-orange. Of course if you have access to homegrown tomatoes that is always an excellent choice as well. Food connoisseur's claim that homegrown tomatoes not only be organic and nutritious, but can also bring extra flavor to any dish!
Organic tomatoes are better. The Environmental Working Group says that tomatoes are most likely to be contaminated with pesticides. In studies, a single sample of cherry tomatoes tested positive for 13 different pesticides.
Did you know? Americans consume 75 percent of their tomatoes in processed forms such as ketchup, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that organic ketchup contains higher levels of antioxidants than its conventional counterpart.
All of this means you may wish to buy organic tomatoes. When you buy organic, you are not only avoiding nasty chemicals, you are getting more nutritional bang for your buck.
Store tomatoes at room temperature (above 55 degrees) until they have fully ripened. This will allow them to ripen properly and develop good flavor and aroma. Try to store tomatoes out of direct sunlight, because sunlight will cause them to ripen unevenly. If you must store them for a longer period of time, place them in the refrigerator. Serve them at room temperature. Chopped tomatoes can be frozen for use in sauces or other cooked dishes.
Lycopene, one of nature's most powerful antioxidants, is found almost exclusively in tomatoes.
Zesty Tomato Soup
Another simple, but fabulous, recipe.
1 cup tomatoes
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon dill
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Blend all the ingredients in a blender and serve.
A Note on Green Tomatoes
Green tomatoes may be out-muscling spinach! Scientists have identified a compound in them called tomatidine that helps build muscle and protect against atrophy. It has been found to stimulate growth in human muscle cells. One green tomato packs 57-percent of your daily vitamin C and 2g each of protein and fiber.
Also about 500 years ago people with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead (in the pewter) to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.
Tomato Leaves a Remedy for the Curculio*
"I planted a peach orchard," writes M. Story, of the Society of Horticulture of France, "and the trees grew well and strongly. They just commenced to bud when they were invaded by the curculio (pulyon), which insects were followed, as frequently happens, by ants. Having cut some tomatoes, the idea occurred to me that, by placing some of the leaves around the trunk and branches of the peach trees, I might preserve them from the rays of the sun, which are very powerful. My surprise was great, upon the following day, to find the trees entirely free from their enemies, not one remaining, except here and there where a curled leaf prevented the tomato from exercising its influence. These leaves I carefully unrolled, placing upon them fresh ones from the tomato vine, with the result of banishing the last insect and enabling the trees to grown with luxuriance. Wishing to carry still further my experiment, I steeped in water some leaves of the tomato, and sprinkled with this infusion other plants, roses, and oranges. In two days these were also free from the innumerable insects which covered them, and I felt sure that, had I used the same means with my melon patch, I should have met with the same result. I therefore deem it a duty I owe to the Society of Horticulture to make known this singular and useful property of the tomato leaves, which I discovered by the merest accident."
*Curculio - a type of beetle
Source: The Farm and Household Cyclopedia - circa 1888
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