Tomato Food Facts

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Fruit of the Vine

Tomato

The tomato is the fruit of a vine native to South America. By the time European explorers arrived in the New World, the tomato had made its way up into Central America and Mexico.

The Spanish carried plants back home from Mexico, but it took some time for tomatoes to be accepted in Spain because it was thought that -- like various other members of the nightshade family -- they were poisonous.

Some tomato advocates, however, claimed the fruit had aphrodisiac powers and, in fact, the French called them pommes d'amour, meaning "love apples".

It wasn't until the 1900s that the tomato gained some measure of popularity in the United States. Today this fruit is one of America's favorite "vegetables", (it's actually a fruit) a classification the government gave the tomato for trade purposes in 1893.

The Tomato

Available all year, tomatoes should be well formed and free from blemishes.

Green tomatoes will eventually turn red, but will not have good flavor. A vine ripened tomato is best. Refrigerate, but do not allow freezing. The color may be deceiving since sometimes chemicals are used to redden them.

Tomatoes will keep better if stored at room temperature. Also, if stored stem down, they will last longer.

Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and contain appreciable amounts of vitamins A and B, potassium, iron and phosphorus. A medium tomato has about as much fiber as a slice of whole-wheat bread and only about 35 calories.

Quick Tomato Facts

Tomato with a face

  • Americans obtain more of their vitamins from tomatoes than from any other vegetable.
  • Salsa has replaced ketchup as the top selling condiment in the United States. Now there is a salsa/ketchup combination available.
  • One ounce of tomato puree has twice the vitamin C and 20 percent more beta carotene than one ounce of fresh tomato.
  • To peel tomatoes easily, place them in boiling water and remove from heat, allow to stand for one minute then plunge them into cold water.
  • Another way to peel a tomato is to place a long fork into it and hold it over a gas burner until the skin blisters. The skin should peel off easily.
  • Tomatoes will keep longer if you store them stem down.
  • Tomatoes may be broiled and sprinkled with grated cheese for a different taste treat.
  • Tomatoes should ever be left to ripen in direct sunlight, as they will lose most of their vitamin C.
  • When slicing tomatoes, it will be easier if you use a bread knife with saw teeth. It will not even tear the skin.
  • Tomatoes are sometimes picked green and ethylene gassed on their way to the supermarket right in the trucks. This can be accomplished during an overnight run.
  • There is a big difference in vitamin loss and taste in a gassed tomato and a vine-ripened one.
  • Americans eat approximately 24 pounds of tomatoes per person, per year.
  • If you are expecting a frost and have tomatoes on the vine, pull them up by the roots and hang them upside down in a cool basement until the fruit ripens.
  • The federal government can detect only 55 percent of the 100 approved pesticides.
  • Green tomatoes will ripen faster if you store them with apples. Both give off ethylene gas when ripening and the extra shot of gas will make them ripen faster.
  • Green tomatoes will also ripen faster if stored in a cool place wrapped loosely in newspapers. This method may take a week or two.

Pair 'em Up!

Green zebra tomatoes are fruity with playful bursts of lemon-lime. A delicious way to balance rich proteins like pork chops.

Brandywine tomatoes have a full flavored, classic tomato taste. They are wonderful raw in salads and sandwiches or simply roasted.

Cherokee purple tomatoes are smoky with a slight sweetness, likened to a Zinfandel wine. They are great in salsas or cold soups like gazpacho.

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