Tomatoes are native to western South America and Central America. Zictoatl, as it was known by the Aztecs, was observed in 1519 by Cortez who saw the plants growing in Montezuma’s gardens and brought seeds back to Europe where they were planted as ornamental curiosities, but not as food.
The English word tomato comes from the Spanish tomatl, first appearing in print in 1595. French botanist, Tournefort gave the Latin botanical name, Lycopersicon esculentum, which translates to “wolfpeach.” Peach is in reference to its being round and luscious and wolf because it was erroneously considered poisonous. As a member of the Nightshade Family (along with potato, eggplant, tobacco and deadly nightshade), tomatoes were once thought poisonous (although the leaves are poisonous) by Europeans who were suspicious of this shiny bright fruit. (Tomatoes technically are a fruit, not a vegetable)
Early varieties to reach Europe were yellow in color, since in Spain and Italy they were known as pomi d’oro, meaning yellow apples. Italy was the first to embrace and cultivate the tomato outside South America. The French referred to the tomato as pommes d’amour, or love apples, as they thought them to have stimulating aphrodisiacal properties.
Up until the end of the eighteenth century, physicians warned against eating tomatoes, fearing they caused not only appendicitis but stomach cancer.
Tomatoes are cool in energy and sweet and sour in flavor. Although they are acidic, they have an alkalinizing effect on the blood. They have antiseptic, antiscorbutic (preventing scurvy), and laxative properties, and they aid digestion in cases of inadequate stomach acid secretions. They are considered beneficial to the liver and help the body eliminate uric acid. They have been used in treatments for headache, tuberculosis, high cholesterol, hypertension, and constipation.
Next: Tomato Sauce recipe and video
Tomatoes contain beta carotene, B complex vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, sulfphur, quercitin, histamine, and lycopene. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant and is being researched as a preventive agent for cancers of the lungs, prostate, pancreas, stomach, and cervix. It also protects against stroke, heart disease, and cataracts. Processing tomatoes with some oil enhances the absorption of lycopene, which is fat soluble.
Avoid tomatoes that are bruised or mushy. Ripe tomatoes should have a smooth, firm skin but yield slightly to the pressure of a finger. Vine-ripened tomatoes are best; sometimes non-organic commercial tomatoes are picked green and ripened with ethylene gas. Usually grocery stores will advertise vine-ripened tomatoes as such. Serve tomatoes in slices at room temperature, or add to salads, soup, sauces, or vegetable juices. Native versions were small, like cherry tomatoes, and most likely yellow rather than red. Herbs that complement the flavor of tomato include basil, dill, oregano, black pepper and rosemary,
Some people find that tomatoes cause irritable bowel, heartburn, migraines, and/or skin irritation. Tomatoes also contain the alkaloid solanine and oxalic acid, which can inhibit calcium absorption; those with arthritis should eat tomatoes only in moderation.
Tomatoes are associated with the planet Venus, the element of Water and the energies of prosperity, health, love and protection. As tomatoes were considered a food of fortune, one still sees this symbolism in red tomato pincushions.
You can use this sauce on pasta or pizza.
2 large tomatoes
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked 2 hours
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil (optional)
1 teaspoon anise or fennel seed
1 tablespoon of honey or agave
1 teaspoons Celtic salt
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse. Makes 3 cups.
Try this on: Summer Squash Pasta
What do you enjoy about tomatoes?