Energetics of Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

The great debate, what is a tomato?!  Well, while it is used and consumed as vegetable it is botanically a fruit. Tomatoes have seeds and grows from a flowering plant, therefore it is botanically classified as a fruit. The confusion comes from the fact that in 1887, US tariffs imposed a duty on vegetables, but not fruits.  Then in 1893 the US Supreme Court ruled in the case of Nix V. Hedden that tomatoes were to be considered a vegetable based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use, meaning that since tomatoes were usually served with dinner and not as a dessert they were a vegetable.

 

Varieties

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

Tomato plants originated in the South America Andes in an area in modern day Peru. It was first consumed as food by the Aztecs. Now a days, the main producer of tomatoes is China, followed closely by the US and India. There are literally about 7,500 different types of tomatoes in the world, but today we are going to talk about 5 categories of tomatoes most commonly found at your local market.

Cherry Tomatoes are red, orange or yellow in color, and are bite-sized. These are used mostly in salads or as a garnish.

Slicing Tomatoes

Slicing Tomatoes

Plum Tomatoes and Roma/Italian Tomatoes are small, egg-shaped tomatoes that contain less juice than Slicing Tomatoes. Since they contain less juice these types of tomatoes are ideal for cooking, especially tomato sauces.

Slicing Tomatoes are small, round, and juicy.  These are the most commonly found tomato in local markets.  These include the flat beefsteak tomato.

Heirloom Tomatoes actually have no standard definition, but most experts consider them to be varieties that have been passed down for generations of a family and developed to bring out their best characteristics. They can be found in a variety of colors, shapes, and tastes. They are usually a soft tomato with a short shelf life, thus are not as wide distributed.  Most are found in farmer markets, natural food stores and supermarkets with a larger expanse of produce.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes are unripe tomatoes. They contain less nutrients than fully ripe tomatoes.  This is due to the fact that the phytonutrients that result in the tomatoes red coloring have not yet developed.

While tomatoes are available throughout the year, their peak season runs from July through October.

Best Way to Choose and Store

Plum Tomatoes

Plum Tomatoes

When selecting tomatoes look for ones that are deeply and evenly colored, and ones that are firm and heavy for their size. They should also be well shaped and have smooth skin.  Ripe tomatoes will yield to slight pressure and have a slight sweet smell. Avoid tomatoes with wrinkles, cracks, bruises, or soft spots.  Also avoid ones with a puffy appearance, as they tend to have inferior flavor.

Since ripe tomatoes are too fragile to ship, most commercially sold tomatoes are actually picked green and are exposed to ethylene gas (do not fret, this is the gas that fruit and veggies naturally give off that help quicken the ripening process) to ripen them to a red color once they reach their destination.  Since these tomatoes are picked early, their taste is not as flavorful as tomatoes found at farmers markets.

For canned tomatoes, make sure that you purchase tomatoes canned in the United States. Many countries do not have the same strict policies about controlling lead content in their food containers.  The high acid content in tomatoes can lead to corrosion of the container’s metal and result in migration of metals (especially lead) into the food.

Green Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes

It is best to eat tomatoes the same day you buy them, but if that is not a possibility make sure you store them correctly.  Tomatoes can be stored uncut for up to 10 days.  It is best to keep them at room temperature and to keep them away from direct sunlight. Refrigerating unripe tomatoes can cause them to lose flavor and become spongy. Only put tomatoes in the fridge if they are overripe and you have not had a chance to eat them yet. Try to place them in the butter compartment if possible and eat with 2 days. Take them out of the fridge at least 30 mins before preparing them, so that you can regain the optimal flavor and juiciness.  For tomatoes that are already cut, place it in an airtight container or bag with all the excess air removed.  Sliced tomatoes will only last up to 2 days in the fridge.

Nutrition

tomato-nutritionTomatoes are rich in nutrients that have antioxidant activity.  They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, due to their concentration of pro-vitamin A carotenoids such as alpa- and beta-carotene. Tomatoes also contain the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene.  Other great benefits of tomatoes are their heart healthy potassium, folic acid, dietary fiber, and vitamin B6; bone-building vitamin K, magnesium and phosphorus; sulfite-detoxifying molybdenum; free-radical-scavenging manganese, copper and vitamin E; energy-producing vitamin B1, vitamin B12, vitamin B5, niacin, and iron; muscle-building protein; blood-sugar-regulating chromium; and sleep-promoting tryptophan.

 

 

 

Energetics

Tomatoes are very cooling in nature. They build yin fluids and relieves dryness and thirst, tonifies the stomach and cleans the liver, purifies the blood and detoxifies the body in general, encourages digestion and used in cases of diminished appetite, indigestion, food retention, anorexia, and constipation. Tomatoes relieve liver heat and accompanying symptoms such as high blood pressure, red eyes, and headache. It can also be used to treat areas of blood stagnation, as both food and an external pack of raw finely sliced pieces. Even though tomatoes are highly acidic, after digestion they alkalizes the blood and thus is useful in reducing the acid blood of rheumatism and gout.  Try to eat vine-ripened tomatoes, as green-picked tomatoes that are later ripened can weaken the kidney-adrenal function.

Caution: Tomato upsets calcium metabolism and should be avoided in cases of arthritis. Large amounts of tomatoes are weakening of everyone.

 

Roasted Cherry Tomato Chutney on Squash

Tomato RecipeIngredients

  • 1 2 – pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 pints cherry and/or grape tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 8 – ounce container bite-size fresh mozzarella balls, cut up
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Brush cut sides of squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place squash halves, cut sides down, in a large baking dish. Prick the skin all over with a fork. Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degrees oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, place cherry tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the minced garlic and salt to taste; stir well to coat. Place tomato mixture in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake in oven with the squash for the last 20 minutes.
  3. In a large skillet, bring the chicken broth to boiling; add onion. Cook about 3 minutes or just until tender. Remove skillet from heat. Add roasted tomatoes to the skillet with the onion. Using a fork or potato masher, gently press down on tomatoes to pop their skin and release their juice. Add mozzarella, basil and mint to the tomato mixture; toss well.
  4. Using a fork, remove the squash pulp from shell. Top squash with tomato mixture and Parmesan cheese.

Source

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