The tomato is an edible fruit of Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant. The Aztec word tomatl gave rise to the Spanish word "tomate", where the English word tomato comes from. Its use as a food originated in Mexico, and spread throughout the world after the Spanish colonization of the Americas.
The Spanish also brought the tomato to Europe. It grew easily in Mediterranean climates, and cultivation began in the 16th century. It was probably eaten shortly after it was introduced, and was certainly being used as food by the early 17th century in Spain. In Britain, tomatoes were grown mainly for aesthetic purposes.
Although some called the tomatoes ‘love apples’, nobody dared to taste them. Legend has it that a nobleman, desperate from unrequited love, decided to kill himself… and ate a basketful of tomatoes…
In the early 1700s, tomato seeds were brought into the 13 US colonies via the European immigrants.
Alexander W. Livingston, a botanist in Ohio bought boxes of tomato seeds and decided to develop the tomatoes for mass consumption. In his experimental phase, he grew varieties of tomatoes, trying to perfect their shape and taste. It took five years of experimenting until he finally had the tomato he wanted. He called it ‘Livingston’.
Most Americans thought the tomato was poisonous and so it was an astonishing event when, in 1806, Jefferson served them to guests at the President’s House.
Another promoter of tomatoes was Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson who set out to eat a basket of tomatoes on the steps of the local courthouse in 1830. A multitude of people watched him, expecting to see him foam at the mouth, twitch and agonise until he died. However, he didn’t, so the tomatoes were gradually accepted as food, though preferably in a highly processed form by heat, vinegar, and spices. Tomato ketchup was popular long before salad tomatoes were.
Today, the tomato is considered to be extremely healthy and delicious. It is very versatile - it can be baked, roasted, fried, grilled, pickled, and powdered. The tomato is an excellent source of vitamin C, antioxidants and beta carotene, which can help combat cancer, prostate cancer. Its fiber, potassium and choline content are beneficial for heart health. Potassium is important for our bodies because it decreases the risk of strokes, keeps the blood pressure stable, prevents cardiovascular disease, and fights muscle cramps. Tomatoes help lower the blood sugar and keep the insulin levels stable in diabetics. Tomatoes are rich in Lycopene, lutein and beta-carotene – powerful antioxidants that protect the eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration.
Here is an easy recipe with tomatoes and feta cheese.3 chopped onions750 g of wheel-sliced tomatoes200 g of feta cheese4 eggsa cup of milkFry the onion with 2 soup spoonfuls of flour in vegetable oil. Add the tomatoes and gently fry them, too. Place on a greased baking tray and sprinkle the cheese on top. You can add some parsley to add more flavour. Make a mixture of the eggs with the milk, pour the mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake in a hot oven. Enjoy with rustic bread and olives.