Tomatoes

By EAT SMARTER
Updated on 30. Apr. 2020
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Red, plump and juicy tomatoes present themselves during the summer time. Here, you will find the most important facts about tomatoes.

Tomatoes...

  • ...provide valuable lycopene. What makes tomatoes particularly healthy is the lycopene in them. Experts regard this carotenoid substance to be a real booster for the entire body. Just two tomatoes (100 grams) cover the daily requirement of 6 milligrams of lycopene. Also note that the darker the tomato, the higher the lycopene content.
  • ...are high in vitamins and minerals. Tomatoes contain 25 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams, which is almost a quarter of the recommended daily amount. Minerals such as potassium and magnesium, as well as folic acid, additionally complete the health profile of tomatoes.
  • ...supports your vision. With 115 micrograms of vitamin A per 100 grams, tomatoes are among the foods that are particularly good for the eyes.
  • ...might help prevent cancer. Not only does lycopene protect body cells from harmful free radicals, but other antioxidants in tomatoes also contribute in the same way to protecting against cancer.
  • ...can help protect against stroke. Anyone who enjoys tomatoes every day can reduce their risk of stroke by up to 55 percent due to the lycopene content.
  • ..can help keep you looking young. Tomatoes offer anti-aging properties. People who eat them regularly have a high carotenoid concentration in their skin and measurably fewer wrinkles.
  • ...are great for your figure. Tomatoes are among the most effective slimmers of all. They contain very few calories, no fat and hardly any carbohydrates, but plenty of water. This makes tomatoes a perfect slimming snack, especially in summer.
  • ...are best when chopped. The smaller the tomatoes are cut, the better the body can absorb and utilise the lycopene they contain. This works especially well with tomato sauce.

What You Should Know About Tomatoes

There is nothing like tomatoes from the field or garden. Anyone who has ever enjoyed them knows that. Those that are not sun-ripened are usually not as delightfully aromatic as those harvested in the summer. Even the most sophisticated cultivation technology doesn't replace the natural process, even if the Dutch in particular are now achieving decent results in this area.

The name for tomatoes comes from the ancient Aztecs word "tomatl,” which meant the "clumsy fruit." The Spanish conquerors simplified the name to "tomato" and took it to Europe from their conquests in Mexico in the early 16th century.

Even then, several varieties existed: the Italian herbalist Mattioli called yellow tomatoes "mala aurea" (golden apples); and a red variety was described by the Dutch herbal expert Dodeons in 1554. Wherever the tomato was discovered and appreciated, it was initially used as an ornamental and medicinal plant. 

Our ancestors gradually discovered that tomatoes are wonderful to eat and therefore excellent to cook. First and foremost, of course — after the Spaniards — were the Italians, with the oldest Neapolitan recipe for "tomato sauce, Spanish-style" dating back to 1692. Today, the delicious red tomato is, botanically speaking, not a vegetable at all but a fruit that has become an indispensable part of many cuisines. 

Origins

Tomatoes originally came from the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Andes, where they grew wild.

Seasonality

June through September is the most popular harvesting season for native tomatoes. Through imports and greenhouses, however, tomatoes are available all year round.

Flavor

Depending on the variety, cultivation, climate and quality, tomatoes have varying tastes. Good tomatoes have a balanced ratio of light acidity and pleasant sweetness.

Although tomatoes can be found in the supermarket all year round, during in the winter months they come from greenhouses. The seasonal outdoor produce is much more aromatic.

Our Favorite Tomato Recipes

How Healthy Are Tomatoes?

What makes tomatoes particularly healthy is the lycopene they contain. Just two tomatoes cover the daily requirement of 6 milligrams of lycopene. The darker the tomato and the more intense its red color, the higher the lycopene content. And the more the tomatoes are chopped, the better the body can absorb and utilize the lycopene it contains. This therefore works particularly well with tomato sauce.

Recent studies show that lycopene protects our body cells from cancer. If you eat tomatoes every day, you can also reduce your risk of stroke by up to 55 percent due to the lycopene content.

Tomatoes grown outdoors also provide a large portion of vitamin C, which is found especially in the gelatinous liquid around the seeds. At 25 milligrams per 100 grams, tomatoes account for almost a quarter of our daily vitamin C requirement. However, almost 90 percent of the tomatoes eaten in this country grow under glass and receive their nutrients through a drip tube.

A high content of vitamin A and minerals, such as potassium and magnesium, as well as folic acid, complete the health profile of tomatoes. Field crops are abundant with vitamin C in comparison to greenhouse tomatoes, which offer only half of the benefits. Tomatoes provide B vitamins, which are essential for the body's energy production. Thus, they support a healthy and active metabolism. 

All the green parts of the tomato contain tomatin, a poison that causes nausea, diarrhoea, skin problems and headaches if eaten in large quantities. Do not let children taste the leaves and stems of the plant, and under no circumstances should you eat green tomatoes. However, the first signs of poisoning only appear from a dose of 200 milligrams, for which you would have to eat several kilos of green tomatoes.

Tomatoes contain histamine, which are helpful with immune defence, but also in allergic reactions. So, people who suffer from neurodermatitis or histamine intolerance often cannot tolerate tomatoes.

Tomatoes Nutritional Info (100 g)  
Calories 20
Protein 0.95 g
Fat 0.2 g
Carbohydrates 2.6 g
Fiber 1.3 g

Shopping and Cooking Tips for Tomatoes

Shopping

Whenever possible, use outdoor tomatoes. Outside of tomato season,and with a bit of luck, you may catch tomatoes from the greenhouse that taste like their more naturally grown counterparts.

Storage

Store tomatoes at room temperature. Never put them in the refrigerator as the cold is an absolute aroma killer!

Tomatoes give off the ripening gas ethylene, meaning they both ripen and soil quickly. So, store tomatoes separate from other foods, or close to other fruits and vegetables.

Always throw away tomatoes with rotten or mouldy spots — don’t try to cut around the parts that have gone bad. 

Preparation

To prepare tomatoes, simply wash and remove the greenery from each one. Afterward, skin them if you’d like, or halve or quarter them and cut them into small pieces. 

Anyone who skins and pits tomatoes, as is customary in fine cuisine for sauces and soups, throws away the best parts because most of the fiber lives in the seeds and skin. Most of the vitamin C is also found between the seeds. But if the recipe calls for skinned tomatoes, it will take time to peel them, though the process is rather uncomplicated. 

Here’s how:

Carve the tomatoes crosswise at the top or at the base of the stalk with a sharp knife and put them into a sufficiently large bowl.

Pour boiling water over them until they are covered, and let them stand for two to five minutes, depending on their size. If the tomatoes are not quite ripe and very firm, this will take a little longer.

Pour them into a strainer, rinse briefly with very cold water and drain.

Over a bowl, peel the skin with a sharp, pointed kitchen knife (this should happen easily).

What To Make with Tomatoes

A tip from great-grandmother's bag of tricks that still works: Always add a little sugar to tomato dishes. A small pinch may be enough to emphasize the typical tomato aroma and take the edge off its acidity.

Knowledge To Go 

Tomatoes not only taste great, but they also help us stay healthy, offering vitamins A and C and antioxidant lycopene.

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