Vegetables, Fresh, Tomatoes

The tomato is a member of the nightshade family and was regarded as poisonous. Really the leaves are!
Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable? At one stage it was considered a fruit to avoid taxation, but in the late 1800’s the Supreme Court ruled it was a vegetable and may be taxed accordingly. The U.S. passed the 1883 Tariff Act which required a 10% tax on imported vegetables. This law was challenged on the grounds that the tomato was actually a fruit, not a vegetable. . These vegetables, which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which, whether eaten raw or cooked are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with or after soup, fish or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruit generally, as dessert.”
The tomato has a colorful history coming in the Americas, traveled to Europe and then returned to the Americas to produce the tomato we have now. Lycopersicon Esculentum has become a staple in many cultures.
Nowadays eight species of the tomatoes are still found in Peru which leads to what a Russian scientist, Vavilov, felt that to find the middle of a crop species that you must locate area where it has its greatest diversity.
The array of wild celery relatives goes from the tip of Chili to Ecuador and inland almost 200 miles. The fruits of the wild tomato species are small. They don’t tolerate frost.
The tomato was known as”xitomatl” from the Aztecs, while Central America tribes called it”Tomati”. Ancient Peruvian cultures don’t mention anything like a tomato as being an important part of their diet. The Aztec culture mentions dishes made from peppers, salt, and tomatoes. The cerasiforme variety continues to grow wild in Central America producing small, cherry size fruit on a vine.
Matthiolus wrote in 1544 describing tomatoes or”pomid’oro (golden apple)” and they were eaten with oil, pepper and salt. This is supporting evidence that the European berries were of a yellow selection.
The early Spanish name for the tomato was pome dei Moro (Moor’s Apple). Carl Linnaeus in Germany came up with a name of Lycopersicon Esculentum which literally means,”edible wolf peach”. The English noted the tomato as early as 1596 as the Love Apple that was eaten abroad and explained them as status and stinking. A 1692 cookbook printed in Naples mentions tomatoes.
Several cookbooks in the early 1800s in America contained recipes that included tomatoes. Tomatoes were sold in Boston’s Quincy Market in 1835. Four varieties of tomatoes were recorded in Thomas Bridgeman’s catalog in 1847 (cherry, pear, big yellow and large squash).
It is apparent that the tomato has been firmly planted in western culture by the late 1800s. Heirloom varieties come in varying shapes, sizes and colours. Some are green, some have green stripes, some are rainbow coloured, some are shaped like peppers, some are nearly black, some are dark purple, some are cherry dimensions and some weigh over two pounds.
The balance between a good tasting fruit with a tough fruit tolerant to transport is much desired by growers. Ripe tomatoes are soft and bruise easily, beginning to decrease in quality in a couple of days. The chemical ethylene causes the tomatoes to ripen and is created by the tomato as the seeds develop near completion.
Normally, growers select tomatoes just as the shoulders of the fruit shed their dark green colour allowing the tomatoes to be sent while resisting bruising or rotting. Normally the tomatoes are red when they reach their destination or can be induced to ripen with the use of an ethylene spray. The taste suffers because of this practice.
From the early 1990s, a bio-engineered tomato called’Flavr Savr” was introduced. This was a huge blunder, as the public wasn’t in favor of bioengineered products and has since been removed from the market.
The purported benefit of lycopene (responsible for the deep red color) was touted as an anti-oxidant, a molecule which wipes out free radicals that cause cancer in people. Tomatoes are a excellent source of lycopene and several studies have confirmed that people who consume tomato products seem to have a reduction in the risk of cancer. Studies indicate that eating cooked tomatoes reduces the odds of cholesterol related heart problems and some cancers. Cooking tomatoes releases the lycopene from the skin of the tomato.
Tomatoes are ranked 16th among all vegetables and fruits as a source of vitamin A and 13th in vitamin C. They also contain substantial amounts of lycopene, beta-carotene, thiamine, sodium, riboflavin, potassium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and niacin.
Clearly the tomato is the single most important fruit or vegetable in the western diet in terms of a source of vitamins and minerals.
Not bad for a product that has been regarded as hazardous to ones health by many until the late 1800s.

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