If someone told me: you can choose only one vegetable to eat exclusively for the rest of your life, I would choose the tomato. I delight in many vegetables, especially potatoes, eggplants, and onions. And I know that the tomato is actually formally a fruit. The name "tomato" was given to this fruit by the Aztecs (tomatl), who used it for food and who, at some point, began to cultivate this originally green and sour fruit - and brought out what became red and quite sweet. Their name led to the introduction of the Spanish "tomate", when the colonizers brought the first tomatoes with them to Europe in the 16th century.
But when this fabulous fruit was originally brought to Italy, it was named Pomodoro, which means “golden apple”. It was the yellow "golden" tomatoes that were brought first to the Medici court, and so they were called. Though a lot of red tomatoes made their way quite quickly to Italy as well, the beautiful name remained.
Scientists call them Solanum lycopersicum, from the Greek "wolf peach" - I wonder who came up with such a name!
It took 150 years before Italians started to eat tomatoes. Before that tomatoes were actually an ornamental plant. The fact that they grew in the earth, and didn't hanging from branches, suggested they were not noble enough to be eaten by the nobility. Simultaneously, common people and peasants preferred more nutritious vegetables.
Only by the end of the 17th century tomatoes finally began to be used as food everywhere, after which they quickly gained a crazy popularity, and now it is impossible to imagine Italian culture and cooking without these fruits. The pizza and pasta without tomato? Nonsense!
Today in Italy there are more than 300 kinds of tomatoes. Approximately the same in France. In Massachusetts for comparison - about 30.
The taste: As you know, tomatoes can be very sweet, with some acidity, a mixture of sweet and sour, more sour - and, alas, tasteless. Tasteless tomatoes are the ones we often buy in supermarkets. This happens because, by developing beautiful, non-perishable and identically-looking tomatoes, agronomist scientists removed those elements of the fruit that are responsible for the taste and the aroma. But scientists realized it, conducted a large study and gave recommendations on how to restore the lost taste. You can read it in detail in the journal "Science" here: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6323/391
in the article "A chemical genetic roadmap to improved tomato flavor".
The benefits: Tomatoes are full of good nutrients. They contain a multitude of elements necessary for a person's good health: lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamins C, K and B, copper, manganese and potassium. In addition, tomatoes have the so-called phytonutrients - flavonols kaempferol, quercetin, rutin, caffeine, coumarin and ferulic acid. But that's not all! Tomatoes contain a large amount of lycopene, a carotenoid, which gives them a red color. Scientists believe that lycopene, especially in stewed, cooked and sun-dried tomatoes, reduces the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases and strokes. Gentlemen, pay attention: according to the results of quite serious scientific research, lycopene reduces the likelihood of prostate cancer and increases the fertility of sperm! (Here, for example, links: www.health.harvard.edu/blog/lycopene-rich-tomatoes-linked-to-lower-stroke-risk-201210105400
The beauty: Tomatoes are incredibly beautiful! I have no words here, just pictures.
And, finally, the food!
I will not even try to list what is made of tomatoes. I'll just offer one of my recipes, a tomato tart. In season at a local farm it is possible to buy or pick some fresh and tasty tomatoes cheap. I go to Coonamesett Farm in East Falmouth and always end up with a huge basket (or two...). But then: what can I do with so much? Well, here is my recipe, which can use frozen tomatoes as well (just cut and freeze them first). The dough can be a yeast dough or puff pastry.
Cut and strew approximately 2/3 of 2 lbs in tomatoes in light olive oil.
After 5 minutes, add in the chopped onion, salt and pepper. When the onion turns golden and the liquid is evaporated significantly (the whole amount would be reduced as tomatoes hold a lot of water), take them off the stove.
Once cooled down, add a bit of feta and thyme to the mixture. You may also add grated cheese (parmesan or even mozzarella).
Roll out the dough, put it in a round baking dish, pour over a cooled mixture of tomatoes with feta. Spread fresh tomatoes and (fresh) thyme on top.
Bake the tart at 375F for about 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are grilled from the top and the dough is sufficiently golden.
This pie is good to eat slightly warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!