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Pomadori: Tomatoes & Tomato Paste

Poma d'ora is the original name of this fruit, which some argue is a vegetable, which means, "Apple of Love".  Tomatoes are the third most widely consumed vegetable* (in 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled the tomato was a "vegetable") in the United States, lagging only behind potatoes and lettuce. They are one of a few foods that are native to the Western Hemisphere.

Tomatoes originated in the coastal highlands of western South America and then appeared later in Central America where Mayan Indians used them as food. With the conquest of Mexico in 1519, tomatoes were carried eastward to Europe. Although Europeans at first believed tomatoes to be poisonous, the Spaniards and Italians eventually found many culinary uses for them. By the early 1900s, tomatoes were considered a staple of American cookery. It is estimated that more than 85 percent of home gardeners plant tomatoes. But what should you do with all those tomatoes straight from the backyard? Add the juicy taste of fresh tomatoes to your next meal with this zesty salad.

The tomato (a fruit, although a 1893 US court named it a vegetable) is native to Mexico and Central America.  They were were cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas dating as far back as 700 AD.  Although first thought to be poisonous, 16th century conquistadors who introduced them to Spain, where their popularity spread quickly to Portugal and eventually Sicily.  From Sicily the popularity of the tomato grew into Southern Italian regions and of course, today its a synonomous with Southern Italian cooking as is garlic, though the Italians have only been using them for the last hundred years or so. The  French refer to them as "love apples."

Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C, carotenoids and beta carotene which are antioxidants.  These offer protection from free radicals that cause premature aging, cancer, heart disease, and cataracts. Loaded with antioxidants and high in potassium, tomatoes are one of the healthiest "vegetables" around. They are low in calories, with about 35 calories per medium tomato.

Tomatoes purchased from the supermarkets have been refrigerated, and will not keep well unrefrigerated. But if you get tomatoes fresh from the garden will keep quite well at room temperature for about a week, same as will those organically grown from farmers' markets.

Garden/Salad Tomatoes
Red Beefsteak
Yellow Beefsteaks
Red & Yellow Plums

Grape Tomatoes
Mini-Pear Plums
Red & Yellow Cherry Tomatoes
Red & Yellow Teardrops
Orange Lollipop Cherries
Purple Heirloom Tomatoes

Cooking Tomatoes
Chopped Tomatoes -
San Marzano
- Sweet, from the area of san marzano in the Naples region of Italy, best from the island of Capri, and makes great sauce
Plum Tomatoes -
not as sweet as the san marzano tomatoes, almost like a smaller pear-shaped tomato

Grape Tomatoes

Tomato Paste: Dehydrated ripe cored tomatoes are where we get tomato paste from.  You can either simmer them for a long time or by spreading a very smooth puree of cooked tomatoes out on a wooden board to dry in the sun as it is done in Italy. The mixture is turned and spread out again several times a day for several days until it dries into a paste. In both cases, the result is a very dense puree with an intense flavor of tomato with low acidity and high sugar content. American tomato paste is usually found in 6-ounce cans, but the more expensive imported paste usually comes in tubes like toothpaste.  The imported paste has better taste (naturally) and is easier to store.  Domestic or imported, tomato paste that is un-used should be stored in a glass or plastic container and kept refrigerated for up to a month.

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