Today we’re going to talk about the terrific TOMATO.
♣ Believed to benefit the heart along with other organs, they contain one of the most powerful, natural antioxidants, carotene lycopene, and has been found to help prevent prostate cancer, especially cooked tomatoes. They are also good sources of vitamins A, C and E along with potassium.
♣ Botanically, the tomato is a fruit, but is considered a vegetable for most culinary uses.
♣ There are many varieties of tomato:
Standard ~ the ‘normal’ tomato, spherical in shape and around an inch to an inch and a half in diameter.
Beefsteak ~ a large version of the normal tomato. Because of their large size, these tomato varieties take longer to mature and ripen so really do not do well except in a greenhouse.
Cherry ~ just a small version of the normal tomato, often marble sized. Often from dwarf bush types.
Plum ~ the firm fleshed oval shaped fruit you find in Italian canned tomatoes. Tend to have been bred to store well as bottled or canned and they freeze well.
Baby Plum ~ another small version, but of the plum tomato.
♣ Tomatoes also come in a range of colors, varying from green to yellow to orange to deep red.
♣ As tomatoes are a sub-tropical fruit and dislike the cold, they should be stored at room temperature. Remove any packaging and place in your fruit bowl. Storing them in the fridge impairs natural ripening and flavor. Over-ripe tomatoes will go soft even more quickly in the refrigerator.
♣ A BEAUTY HINT: Tomato pulp is very good for the skin. It refreshes, tones and aids circulation and will restore acidity to the face after cleansing. To make a tomato face pack, make a paste by mixing tomato pulp with yoghurt. Apply to the face and leave for 10-15 minutes, then wash off.
♣ To ripen home-grown tomatoes, place them in a paper bag with a ripe tomato and keep at room temperature.
♣ Use under-ripe, green tomatoes for making chutney. Use up over-ripe tomatoes to make soups or sauces which can be stored in the freezer for up to six months.
♣ To skin tomatoes, score an ‘X’ on the bottom and place tomatoes into boiling water for 15-30 seconds. Remove and let cool enough to handle them. The skin should come off easily.
♣ Make your own ‘sun-dried’ tomatoes by sprinkling equal amounts of superfine/caster sugar and salt over halved tomatoes. Place them cut side up on a baking sheet and cook in the oven on a low heat for two and a half hours or until most of the liquid has dried out.
♣ A squeeze of lemon will remove the metallic taste from canned tomatoes.
Tomatoes can be eaten raw or cooked, used in stews and sauces and made into puree and ketchup, just to name a few.
I often make a quick and tasty tomato salad. Chop a tomato into small pieces and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with a little dried basil and/or oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic and toss and eat. Delicious! Feel free to add some chopped cucumber also. You can even put this mixture on top of toasted sliced Italian bread for some yummy bruschetta.
Want to make your own tomato sauce? It’s easy and only takes 90 minutes of cooking time once it’s all thrown together. You can find my recipe here on Food.com, (formerly Recipezaar) a recipe site I used to be on. This sauce can be used on anything from pasta to pizza.
Canned tomatoes are an essential store cupboard staple in my book. Add to chili, make a salsa or even a quick pasta sauce. Braise chicken breasts in canned tomatoes with some onion and mushroom and seasonings. Add to stews or make tomato soup!
There is so much that can be done with tomatoes.