You Say Tomato...
No matter how you say it, the Tomato is definitely a staple of modern cuisines around the world. Picking a juicy ripe tomato fresh from the vine is definitely one of life’s simple pleasures.
The tomato has contributed so much to our society, not to mention to our film industry. Why who can forget that blockbuster hit, “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”.
I could never look another Tomato in the eye again after watching that. In fact, I turn my Walkman up extra loud when I walk through the produce section of my grocery store, but I digress…
Indeed, most of us love our juicy ripe tomato friends. But where did they come from?
The inhabitants of Mesoamerica used the fruit in their cooking. The exact date of domestication is unknown but by 500 BC, it was already being cultivated in southern Mexico and many other regions as well.The Pueblo people are thought to have believed that those who witnessed the ingestion of tomato seeds were blessed with powers of divination. The large, lumpy variety of tomato, that existed then could well be the direct ancestor of some modern cultivated tomatoes today.
Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés
may have been the first to transfer the small yellow tomato to Europe after capturing 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 a 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. (Source: Wikipedia informational article)
Fun Fact:In the Early 1500’s the tomato was believed to be a poisonous fruit.
It’s true. How could such a falsehood originate? Well I’m glad you asked. You see,The aristocracy and noblemen of the period used culinary flatware made of Pewter, due to it’s ornate appearance. Unfortunately, Pewter contains significant amounts of lead. As they would dine on the luscious tomato, the acidity of the juices would cause the lead to leech from the pewter and contaminate the food. This would result in lead poisoning and eventual death.
However, the common folk could not afford the luxury of pewter ware and would use wooden plates and bowls and , you guessed it, they had no such problems with Tomatoes. This why only the poorer classes ate tomatoes. Who said wealth brings privilege? Ignorance yes, but not privilege.
There are so many varieties of tomato today that it would be impossible to list them here. However, here are a few variations that are more famous.
The Heirloom Tomato
An heirloom tomato (also called heritage tomato in the UK) is an open-pollinated (non-hybrid) heirloom cultivar of tomato. Heirloom tomatoes have become increasingly popular and more readily available in recent years. Heirloom tomatoes can be classified into four categories: family heirlooms, commercial heirlooms, mystery heirlooms, and created heirlooms. They are grown for a variety of reasons, such as historical interest, access to wider varieties, and by people who wish to save seeds from year to year, as well as for their taste, which is widely perceived to be better than "conventional" tomatoes.(Source: Heirloom Tomato)
The Beefsteak tomato is one of the largest varieties of cultivated tomatoes, some weighing almost a pound or more. Most are pink to red with numerous small seed compartments distributed throughout the fruit, sometimes displaying pronounced ribbing similar to ancient pre-Columbian tomato cultivars. While popular among home growers for sandwich making and other applications requiring a large tomato to be eaten raw, beefsteaks are not grown commercially as often as other types, since they are not considered as suitable for mechanization as smaller slicing tomatoes. (Beefsteak Tomatoes)
The cherry tomato is a small fruited tomato thought to be an intermediate genetic admixture between wild currant-type tomatoes and domesticated garden tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes range in size from a thumb tip up to golf ball size and can range from a spherical shape to an oblong shape. Although usually red, yellow, green and black varieties also exist as well.
Green Zebra Tomato
Green Zebra is a tomato with characteristic dark green and yellow stripes. Newer variations blush reddish instead of yellow when ripe. It is more tart than regular tomatoes. Compared to other tomato varieties, it can produce somewhat mealy fruits depending on growing conditions.
Green Zebra was bred by Tom Wagner of Everett, Washington, and introduced in his Tater-Mater Seed Catalog in 1983.] He first came up with the idea in the 1950s. Commonly, a green tomato meant it wasn’t ripe and they were normally thrown out. However, he was intrigued by the idea of a green tomato that was ready to eat. (Zebra Tomato)
Those are just a few of the interesting types of tomatoes available. Regardless of the type, tomatoes are a wonderful addition to our modern cuisine and a real crowd pleaser. Visit us at the Downtown Farmers Market and see all the great produce available there. Bon Appetite.
arranged by RLJ Online Marketing, LLC