Treasure the variety of tomatoes

There are many ways to enjoy tomatoes.

January 4, 2018 - Author: Laura Anderson, Michigan State University Extension

The tomato was once thought of as the “poisonous  apple.” Back in the 1700s, aristocrats got sick and died after eating tomatoes. It wasn’t the tomato killing them, it was the pewter plates. When the tomato was placed on this type of plate, the high acid content in the tomato would leach lead from the plates resulting in lead poisoning. In 1880, when pizza was invented, the popularity of the tomato grew.

Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Botanically, the tomato is a fruit although they are referred to as a vegetable. Tomatoes are full of vitamins A, C and K and a good source of potassium. Phytonutrients such as carotenoids are found in tomatoes. Research shows that these carotenoids combined with a fat source such as olive oil, provide greater health benefits especially in the area of cardiovascular health.

Tomatoes are very versatile. You can eat them raw on sandwiches or cook and simmer them in sauces. They can be prepared in various ways like roasting, grilling and drying. Tomatoes are in season from June until September with a wide range of variety to choose from.

Heirloom tomatoes have a unique look to them and provide good flavor. They are cultivated with open-pollination seeds without the help of humans and preserved. They have then been passed on through a couple of decades. The yellow pear tomatoes and beefsteak are examples of heirloom tomatoes. Specialty markets and local farmer’s markets carry these special tomatoes.

Hybrid tomatoes are grown by crossing two different types of tomatoes. These tomatoes are not genetically modified but are bred to have such characteristics as uniformity in appearance, more disease resistant and available out of season. The grape tomato and yellow cherry tomato are both examples of hybrid tomatoes.

Store tomatoes at room temperature. If the tomatoes are ripe, store them in the warmest part of your refrigerator. To avoid bruising, place tomatoes in a single layer. Tomatoes are very versatile and can be used in many foods. They have come a long way from being considered the “poisonous apple.”

Tags: food & health, msu extension, nutrition


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