Scientific Name – Solanum lycopersicum (Solanaceae family) Common name – tomato
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.
China, USA, India, Turkey, Spain, Italy are the main producers of tomatoes in the world (According to FAOSTAT, 2010)
Americans may be in love with tomatoes today, but during Colonial Times, we wouldn’t put a tomato near our mouths. Folklore had it that if you ate a tomato, its poison would turn your blood into acid. Instead, the colonists grew tomatoes purely for decoration.
Did you know that in France the tomato is known as “pomme d’amour”, the “love apple”
There are more than one thousand varieties of this “vegetable”, which is actually a fruit. Raspberry tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, red, green, black… tomatoes exist in every shape and color imaginable! As well as cherry tomatoes, there are oblong tomatoes , known as plum tomatoes, biotechnological tomatoes, genetically modified to last longer…
Tomato varieties are roughly divided into several categories, based mostly on shape and size.
- “Slicing” or “globe” tomatoes are the usual tomatoes of commerce, used for a wide variety of processing and fresh eating.
- 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.
- Oxheart tomatoes can range in size up to beefsteaks, and are shaped like large strawberries.
- 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.
- Pear tomatoes are obviously pear-shaped, and are based upon the San Marzano types for a richer gourmet paste.
- Cherry tomatoes are small and round, often sweet tomatoes generally eaten whole in salads.
- Grape tomatoes, a more recent introduction, are smaller and oblong, a variation on plum tomatoes, and used in salads.
- 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.
Tomatoes that are not yet ripe are optimally stored at room temperature uncovered, out of direct sunlight, until ripe. They will last 3-4 days. When ripe, tomatoes should be used in 1-2 days. Store tomatoes at room temperature with the stem end down. When refrigerated tomatoes lose flavor.