The humble tomato is a staple of our diet, and an essential part of many cuisines, from Italian bolognese to Mexican salsa. Botanically, tomatoes are the fruit of the Solanum lycopersicum plant (commonly known as the tomato plant), however are predominantly used in savoury applications, and therefor are generally considered a “culinary vegetable”. All tomatoes belong to the Solanaceae (nightshade) family of plants, alongside potatoes and eggplants. We don’t mind if our tomatoes are oddly shaped or have skin-marks, as we consider this to be natural variation in a natural product. Cherry tomatoes are small and sweet, perfect for using in salads.
There are a tonne of ways to use tomatoes, but while they can be added to a variety of dishes, their incredibly flavour can hold their own with just a few additional ingredients. Concentrate their flavour by halving or quartering tomatoes, splashing with good quality extra virgin olive oil, seasoning with flakey sea salt and freshly ground pepper, scattering with torn basil leaves, and then roasting them until shrivelled around the edges. Or, simply prepare a delicious Italian specialty by arranging slices of tomatoes and bocconcini on a platter, drizzling with olive oil, seasoning with sea salt and pepper, and scattering with torn basil leaves – then leave until the flavours develop, before serving.
Tomatoes unique health claim are their high levels of lycopene – a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant linked to cancer prevention (particularly prostate cancer). They’re also an excellent source of vitamins A, C, K, and E, and contain a variety of minerals that are beneficial to your health, and are a great source of dietary fibre.
Ah yes, fridge or cupboard? This debate can be quite heated when it comes to tomatoes, but the answer really depends on how ripe they are!
- Ripe tomatoes should be kept at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, as they lose their flavour if they are stored in the fridge. Ensure they are in a single layer, not touching one another, and stem side up. Consume within a 1-2 days.
- Unripe tomatoes should also be kept at room temperature, as they will ripen and develop flavour, and be ready to use after a couple of days.
- Overripe tomatoes that are soft to touch are best kept in the fridge. The cold air will keep the tomatoes from ripening more, and they should last a few more days. Before consuming refrigerated tomatoes, take them out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature on the counter to allow the fruit to develop some of the flavor it has lost during refrigeration.