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    You are in: Home / Community Forums / Archives: Old Topic of the Month Threads / It's ALL About The Tomato
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    It's ALL About The Tomato

    Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:05 am
    Forum Host

    Tomatoes are America's favorite food. Fresh tomatoes rank among the five top items in the produce department and are the second most popular item in food service. We consume 19 pounds per person per year -- and that's not counting tomatoes processed for sauce and ketchup. Next to Italy, we devour more tomatoes per capita than anywhere else.

    The tomato is an edible, typically red, fruit as well as the plant (Solanum lycopersicum) which bears it. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler climates.

    The tomato fruit is consumed in diverse ways, including raw, as an ingredient in many dishes and sauces, and in drinks. While it is botanically a fruit, it is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes, which has caused some confusion. The fruit is rich in lycopene, which may have beneficial health effects.

    Though it is botanically a berry, a subset of fruit, the tomato is a vegetable for culinary purposes, because of its savory flavor.

    Tomatoes are one of the most common garden fruits in the United States and, along with zucchini, have a reputation for outproducing the needs of the grower.

    Tomatoes should be firm and fully colored at harvest and will be of highest quality when they ripen on healthy vines and daily summer temperatures average about 75°F. When temperatures are high (air temperature of 90°F or more), the softening process is accelerated and color development is retarded, reducing quality. For this reason, during hot summer weather pick your tomatoes every day or two, harvest the fruits when color has started to develop and ripen them further indoors (at 70 to 75°F). On the day before a killing freeze is expected, harvest all green mature fruit that is desired for later use in the fall. Wrap the tomatoes individually in paper and store at 60 to 65°F. They continue to ripen slowly over the next several weeks. Whole plants may be uprooted and hung in sheltered locations, where fruit will continue to ripen.

    The fruit varies widely, ranging from white to deepest purple to multi-toned stripe in color and from perfectly round to elongated banana in shape. Tomato varieties are roughly divided into several categories, based mostly on those shapes and sizes.

    tomato.gif "Slicing" or "globe" tomatoes are the usual tomatoes of commerce, used for a wide variety of processing and fresh eating.
    tomato.gif Beefsteak tomatoes are large tomatoes often used for sandwiches and similar applications. Their kidney-bean shape, thinner skin, and shorter shelf life makes commercial use impractical.
    tomato.gif Oxheart tomatoes can range in size up to beefsteaks, and are shaped like large strawberries.
    tomato.gif Plum tomatoes, or paste tomatoes (including pear tomatoes), are bred with a higher solids content for use in tomato sauce and paste, and are usually oblong.
    tomato.gif Pear tomatoes are obviously pear-shaped, and are based upon the San Marzano types for a richer gourmet paste.
    tomato.gif Cherry tomatoes are small and round, often sweet tomatoes generally eaten whole in salads.
    tomato.gif Grape tomatoes, a more recent introduction, are smaller and oblong, a variation on plum tomatoes, and used in salads.
    tomato.gif Campari tomatoes are also sweet and noted for their juiciness, low acidity, and lack of mealiness. They are bigger than cherry tomatoes, but are smaller than plum tomatoes.
    tomato.gif Heirloom tomatoes are generally considered old-fashioned or “antique” open-pollinated varieties of the fruit. They are often produced from seeds that have been passed down from one generation to another. Some heirloom tomatoes are best eaten “out of hand,” while others are superior for making juice, sauce, paste, and other products.

    Get a load of some of the names: Black from Tula, Crnkovic Yugoslavian, Bear Claw, Purple Cherokee, Purple Calabash, Black Sea Man, White Rabbit, Sunset's Red Horizon, Julia Child, Arkansas Traveler, Limmony, Pink Ping Pong, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Banana Legs, Nebraska Wedding, Pineapple, Hungarian Oval and Mortgage Lifter. No telling how important that last one was to its grower.

    The result of the heirloom tomato craze is that ordinarily risk-fearing, conservative farmers who used to grow one type of tomato are now raising up to 1,000 varieties of heirlooms.

    Tomato festivals are busting out all over, and Americans are flocking to them. Two in Northern California have become annual pilgrimages -- the TomatoFest in Carmel on Sept. 12 and the Tomato Festival at Kendall-Jackson Winery in Fulton on Sept. 11. Both are so popular they turn people away.

    Early tomatoes and cool-summer tomatoes bear fruit even where nights are cool, which usually discourages fruit set. There are also varieties high in beta carotenes and vitamin A, hollow tomatoes and tomatoes which keep for months in storage.

    Most modern tomato cultivars are smooth surfaced, but some older tomato cultivars and most modern beefsteaks often show pronounced ribbing, a feature that may have been common to virtually all pre-Columbian cultivars.

    While virtually all commercial tomato varieties are red, some cultivars – especially heirlooms – produce fruit in other colors, including green, yellow, orange, pink, black, brown, ivory, white, and purple. Such fruit are not widely available in grocery stores, nor are their seedlings available in typical nurseries, but they can be bought as seed. Less common variations include fruit with stripes (Green Zebra), fuzzy skin on the fruit (Fuzzy Peach, Red Boar), multiple colors (Hillbilly, Burracker's Favorite, Lucky Cross), etc.


    The tomato is used in diverse ways, including raw in salads, and processed into ketchup or tomato soup. Unripe green tomatoes can also be breaded and fried, used to make salsa, or pickled. Tomato juice is sold as a drink, and is used in cocktails such as the Bloody Mary.

    Fun Facts About Tomatoes
    tomato.gif The first tomato plants were planted in Greece by a Friar Francis in 1818, in the gardens of a Capuchin monastery at the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates (built in 335 B.C.) in Athens.
    tomato.gif There are at least 10,000 varieties of tomatoes.
    tomato.gif The smallest species of tomatoes are less than three-quarters of an inch in diameter. There are both red and yellow varieties.
    tomato.gif Tomato juice is the official state beverage of Ohio, USA.
    tomato.gif NEVER store tomatoes in the refrigerator! Besides losing their nutritional value, they will also lose their flavor. Store tomatoes above 55°F.
    tomato.gif Botanically speaking, the tomato you eat is a fruit. A fruit is any fleshy material covering a seed or seeds. From horticultural aspect, the tomato is a vegetable plant. The plant is an annual and non-woody. Most fruits, from a horticultural perspective, are grown on a woody plant, with the exception of strawberries.
    tomato.gif The word tomato derives from a word in the Nahuatl language (indigenous to central Mexico), "tomatl".
    tomato.gif It is said that the tomato became popular in France during the French Revolution, because the revolutionaries' iconic color was red, and at one point it was suggested that they should eat red food as a show of loyalty.
    tomato.gif There is also a story, which claims that an agent for Britain attempted to kill General George Washington by feeding him a dish laced with tomatoes during the American Revolution.
    tomato.gif A tomato horn worm can eat an entire tomato plant by itself in one day!
    tomato.gif The heaviest tomato ever was one of 3.51 kg (7 lb 12 oz), of the cultivar 'Delicious', grown by Gordon Graham of Edmond, Oklahoma in 1986.
    tomato.gif Actually a fruit, it took a ruling by the Supreme Court in 1893 to make the tomato a vegetable

    Tomatoes are acidic, making them especially easy to preserve in home canning whole, in pieces, as tomato sauce or as paste. The fruit is also preserved by drying, often in the sun, and sold either in bags or in jars with oil.

    tomato.gif HOW TO CAN TOMATOES

    Great recipes in the database:

    Books you may enjoy:

    Put 'em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling by Sherri Brooks Vinton

    The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World's Most Beautiful Fruit by Amy Goldman

    The Too Many Tomatoes Cookbook: Classic & Exotic Recipes from around the World by Brian Yarvin

    The Tomato Festival Cookbook: 150 Recipes that Make the Most of Your Crop of Lush, Vine-Ripened, Sun-Warmed, Fat, Juicy, Ready-to-Burst Heirloom Tomatoes by Lawrence Davis-Hollander

    Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes for Today by Judy Kingry and Lauren Devine
    Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:16 pm
    Forum Host
    Thanks for this great thread Molly, lots of wonderful information. I love the fun facts as well.

    The amazing amount of varieties is quite staggering really.
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