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TOMATOES

Ah yes, a tomato.  If you like them, usually you really like them!  If you don't care for the tomato, well then, you usually try and avoid them especially in the "fresh or uncooked" form.


The tomato plant originated in the South American Andes many, many, many years ago and it was Mexico that started using the "fruit" as a food. When the Spaniards invaded and colonized the Americas, the tomato was "thrown to the wind" and over time known around the world.


There are now many, many varieties grown around the world, and everyone seems to have their own special variety of this special fruit or vegetable .  Tomatoes are grown on farms, in back yard containers, in gardens, and commercially in greenhouses. 



There are many different names, types, sizes and colors of tomatoes -- large, cherry size, grape size, reds, greens, yellows.  My preference has always been the large bright red for the bacon, lettuce, cheese and tomato sandwich.   However, the "fried green tomatoes", the cherry tomatoes and the many sauces are mighty good too.  The tomato can be used in so many different  methods and for so many different purposes.



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Yes I know it is confusing, but the tomato is botanically considered a fruit.  However, for culinary purposes it is considered a vegetable.  I know we have big disputes in many aspects of foods, processing, etc. in our world, but listen to this:


In 1887, U.S. tariff laws were put into effect that imposed a duty on vegetables, but not on fruits. This caused the tomato's status to become a matter of legal importance. The U.S. Supreme Court (yes, the Supreme Court) settled this controversy on 10 May 1893, by declaring that the tomato is a vegetable. This decision was based on the fact that the tomato was used as a culinary dish and served with dinner and not as a dessert. It should be noted that the holding of this case still only applies to the interpretation of the Tariff Act of 3 March 1883, and the court did not purport to reclassify the tomato for botanical or other purposes.  Sooooo, the tomato is a vegetable.


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Tomatoes keep best unwashed at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. It is not recommended to keep them refrigerated, as it is claimed that refrigeration hurts the flavor. I myself have served platters of tomatoes that had been cooled for some considerable time in the refrigerator, but I don't store them in the refrigerator. I personally have never put tomatoes in a paper bag to ripen them, but some research claims this is a way to ripen tomatoes. This could be a condition of the climate where you live. It still amazes me to watch tomatoes ripen -- seems like each day they become a little pinker and redder than the day before and the next thing you know the tomato is ripe! 




Storing stem down usually helps to prolong shelf life.  This is especially true if you are storing the large to larger type of tomato.  I think this is basically because the stem end of the tomato seems to be thicker or stronger than the bottom of the tomato. The bottom end, if the tomato sits on the bottom, seems to become soft quicker than the stem end.  Now if you have many of the small or cherry type, just spread them out on newspaper.  You don't want them to just be piled on top of each other.  Maybe you have your own method for storage and if it works for you then go for it!





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If you are new to cooking or want to start growing some of your own vegetables, it should be noted that the tomato can be consumed in many different ways.  As an ingredient in various cooked dishes, sauces (including pizza sauces) it can also be eaten raw, used in salads and in drinks.  The tomato has a much lower sugar content than most edible fruits so therefore it is not usually used as a dessert.  So typically it is served as part of a meal, in salads and in culinary uses.




Now for another little twist in tomatoes.  Research now shows that the tomato is treated as a fruit in the home canning process. Tomatoes are acidic enough to process in a water bath rather than a pressure cooker as vegetables require. (Here is my own note:  My mother canned hundreds of quarts of tomatoes and she always used the pressure cooker -- of course this was sixty plus years ago).

Here is another piece of source of additional information regarding vegetables, tomatoes are not the only food source with this ambiguity: green beans, eggplants, cucumbers, and squashes of all kinds (such as zucchini and pumpkins) are all botanically fruits, yet cooked as vegetables.


Here is sometime else you should know about the plant and the green tomato, -- they are toxic.



The leaves and stems, and even the green unripe fruit of the tomato plant contain small amounts of the toxic alkaloid tomatine. They also contain solanine, a toxic alkaloid.  Please note that the use of tomato leaves in herbal tea is NOT recommended!   However, levels of tomatine in foliage and green fruit are generally too small to be dangerous unless large amounts are consumed, for example, as greens. I am sure there are people who have used small amounts of tomato foliage for flavoring without ill effect, but generally it is not encouraged.  Yes, the green tomato is sometimes used for cooking, particularly as fried green tomatoes which means just what is stated, sliced, battered and fried. 


Just remember the tomato plant leaves are toxic and especially to your dog.  Don't allow Fido to eat large amounts of this fruit/vegetable or chew plant material.  If you have to pull out your plants or throw out some tomatoes, make sure they are in the trash unavailable to Fido.


Tomatoes are one of my very special vegetables, so hope you enjoyed this section on tomatoes and feel free to send your comments and experiences.