Food Facts: Tomato

Imagine a world without ketchup. What about waking up to realize there is no pizza sauce? Salsa is another item on the long list of creations we have to enjoy thanks to our friend the tomato. Tomatoes add flavour to sandwiches, sometimes used as the main ingredient. I’ve known some to even enjoy the fruity vegetable in its unadulterated form like others would an apple. We’ll take a look at the tomato and its history and see how it has formed to the food we know today

The History

The origins of the tomato can be traced back to South America, around the year 700 AD. This is where the Aztecs are believed to have grown the first tomatoes. Some speculate that these early tomatoes were yellow and looked similar to the cherry tomato we know of today. Aztecs would make concoctions that we would recognize as resembling salsa, mixtures of tomatoes, corn and peppers.

Tomatoes were first introduced to Europeans in the 16th century. It carried with it a cloud of doubt, some believing tomatoes to be poisonous. This curios characterization of the now well known healthy vegetable came from the eating utensils of the day. The rich ate from plates and used utensils made of pewter. When eating acidic foods like tomatoes on such plates, the lead would be leached out resulting in poisoning. Tomatoes were instead left to the poor, who were able to enjoy the so-called poison due to the fact that their eating utensils were made of wood
The tomato found its way to many cultures around the world.

The tomato was not seen as a kitchen staple in the US until after the Civil War. Since then it has grown to be one of the most recognizable veggies in the country.

Today’s Tomato

Today there are over 7000 varieties of tomatoes. The vegetable is, of course, farmed commercially, but it can also be found in many backyard gardens across the country. The tomato is produced all over the world with China being the leading country in terms of production.

Tomatoes have become known for their nutritional benefits. They contain lycopene, a very powerful antioxidant, which helps in the fight against several cancers. Some have to steer clear of the red vegetable due to the acid reflux it can cause. However, now there are several varieties grown that are less acidic than others and tend to be easier on your stomach. Regardless of your food tastes, you will be hard-pressed not to enjoy something containing tomatoes.