The tomato is
considered a vegetable in cooking, and are best vine
ripened until deep red. Most commercially produced
tomatoes are picked while still in a green and unyielding
state. This is done to reduce damage during transportation
and to increase shelf life.
Unfortunately, they are often
pale and tasteless when sold. Additionally, most
commercial breeds are selected for yield and keeping
qualities, instead of for flavor. So, even vine ripened
tomatoes can be disappointing.
Tomatoes should be kept
at a cool room temperature, but never refrigerated. High
cooking temperatures quickly destroy fresh tomato flavor,
but can be useful to disable enzymes that tend to liquefy
a tomato that has been injured (sliced, mashed, or
shredded, for example).
Tomatoes are rich in
vitamins and antioxidants. They contain MSG. The seeds are
high in fiber and bitter-tasting tannins. The green parts
are mildly poisonous, which is not really surprising, as
tomatoes are closely related to both nightshade and
As its fruit was
originally believed to be poisonous when introduced into
Europe, the tomato was used solely as an ornamental plant
during the 16th and 17th centuries.
The first traces of its use as a food there, date back to
the first half of the 18th century. Only in the
second half of the 19th century did widespread
cultivation of the tomato as food begin (mainly in
southern Italy and in France).
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