Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) are some of the most popular foods in the world. It is impossible to imagine Mexican or Italian cuisines without the presence of tomatoes. They are also essential in many cocktails and sauces such as American ketchup or Mexican “Pico de Gallo”. Tomatoes come from South America where they grew wild in the Andes for thousands of years. The primitive tomatoe was much smaller than the one we know today.
Tomatoes were domesticated and cultivated for the first time in Mexico, but we do not know how they got there. The Aztecs called it xitomatl or Tomatlan, a Nahuatl word that means “fat” and since then is one of the most indispensable ingredients in Mexican cuisine.
Tomatoes traveled to Spain with the conquerors where they were incorporated into the Ibero diet very quickly. In the rest of Europe they were thought to be poisonous due to the presence of an alkaloid in its leaves and immature fruit. It was cultivated as an ornamental plant and it was called “apple of love”. By the eighteenth century it was found that it was not poisonous and consumption began to be popular throughout the world.
They are known by the name Tomate across America and Spanish Americas. Mexico is an exception as it is known as jitomate, a name derived from the Nahuatl, xitomatl.
There are about twenty varieties of tomatoes. Among these are the saladet or plum tomatoes, pear tomatoes, common or Chonta, tomatoes long life, the table, Rome, San Marsano, and small cherry tomatoes. Their flavor is very similar and what varies is their degree of acidity.Tomatoes belong to the Solanaceae family, which comprises about 2,300 species. A tomatoe plant is a creeping vine and what we eat are the fruit of this plant.
Taste and uses
Tomatoes have a delicious taste between sweet and slightly acidic. They combine well with herbs such as basil, cilantro, parsley, thyme, oregano and others. They go well with garlic and onion and vinegar and olive oil. They make a good marriage with cheeses, shellfish and fish.
How to choose your tomatoes
Choose firm consistency tomatoes, with smooth skin and soft to the touch, without soft spots or stains. Buy mature tomatoes if you are consuming them right away and slightly green ones if you are going to use them later. The flavor of tomatoes ripened on the vine and in the sun is insurmountable.
How to preserve tomatoes
Keep tomatoes at room temperature, the flavor is best if these are not refrigerated. They keep between 8 and 10 days in the refrigerator if they are whole. If they are cut, crushed or mashed, they only lasts up to two days. Raw tomatoes do not freeze well because they get mushy. Tomato sauce can be frozen when it is cooked well.
How to manipulate tomatoes
To peel tomatoes, submerge them in hot water for one minute. The skin comes off more easily this way. Many recipes require the use of seeded tomatoes. Cut in half or into quarters and remove the seeds with a spoon.