Fruit or vegetable? To-mah-toe or to-may-to? Whatever you call them, here’s why tomatoes should be on your menu.
The tomato is the fruit of the plant Solanum lycopersicum, originally from South America. This plant is from the nightshade family, as are potatoes, peppers and aubergines.
Tomatoes have been a popular food in the Mediterranean since the 16th century, but in northern Europe they were considered purely decorative until the 19th century. They were thought to be poisonous, due to an unfortunate reaction with the pewter plates used by the rich at the time. Acid foods such as tomatoes leached the lead out of the plates, and it took a long time for the true source of the problem to be found.
Make friends with a keen gardener or a local farm! The taste of a fresh home-grown tomato is a real treat. Buy for flavour, not appearance.
The main benefits are cancer-fighting antioxidants, especially lycopene and zea-xanthin. Lycopene can help to improve protection against ultraviolet rays, and thus skin cancer. Zea-xanthin protects against the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
Tomatoes are also full of vitamins A and C, B-complex, plus many important minerals and trace elements.
Step away from the fridge! Tomatoes lose flavour when chilled and are best appreciated at room temperature, and as fresh as possible. Out of season, enjoy the convenience of tinned or pureed tomatoes, which still pack that nutritional punch.
Fresh or canned, there’s so much you can do with a tomato. If you have fresh ones, they are delicious in salads or on their own. The tomato is of course a classic part of the great British breakfast – here is a nutritious version.
Tinned tomatoes are the ultimate versatile recipe base. They make an instant sauce for meat or vegetable dishes, are perfect in pasta bakes and are indispensable on a pizza.
Tasty, nutritious and good looking – enjoy your tomatoes!
I think that cooked tomatoes are also better for you than fresh tomatoes, which is great for me as I love them fried at breakfast with mushrooms and spinach.