Tomato Saru, Tomato Bhajji (raitha), Tomato Chutney, Tomato Onion Chitranna (Rice) were some of the dishes enjoyed while growing up. Never gave a thought to this fantastic fruit used as a vegetable in various dishes. As I grew up and started cooking dishes from around the globe, the one ingredient that I found common in all the dishes is the humble Tomato.
Native of South America and Mexico, the botanical name of Tomato is Solanum lycopersicum and belongs to Solanaceae (night shade) family. Other night shade family vegetables are Aubergine (Brinjal, Eggplant), Peppers, and Chilies. Tomato has come a long way from just being an ornamental fruit in the 14 century to thousands of varieties of tomatoes being grown as a commercial vegetable crop to be used in different cuisines now.
The major tomato-producing countries are China, United States, Turkey, India, and Italy. In Buñol, Spain, La Tomatina, a festival is celebrated annually, focused on a tomato fight between the citizens of the town.
Tomato is a perennial plant and grows to a height of 3 to 10 feet in height and the stems are weak and hence need support to make them stand erect. Tomato vines are covered with fine short hairs and they turn into roots when the plant comes in contact with the ground and moisture.
Leaves are toxic and are 4 to 10 inch long, with a serrated margin and are covered with fine hair.
The flower is yellow and around 1 to 2 cm in diameter with five pointed lobes on the corolla. The flowers bloom on a cyme of three to 12 together.
Fruit is Green when raw and turns to bright red as it ripens. Size of tomatoes varies in size from huge beefsteak to tiny cherry tomatoes.
Tomatoes have fleshy internal segments filled with slippery seeds surrounded by a watery matrix.
The skin, flesh and seeds of the fruit can be eaten when either raw or ripe. Tomatoes taste sweet, gently tangy flavor and are good to be eaten either raw or cooked.
Types of tomatoes are Beefsteak (biggest), Hybrid (big and Oval), Round (big) also known as “Nati” in Kannada, Cherry (round and small), Plum/Grape (Oval and small), Green (raw and ripe), Purple, Orange, Black, and Yellow.
Tomatoes are rich in antioxidant content and rich concentration of lycopene, which benefits bone health, cardiac health, and reduces cancer risk and neurological diseases. Tomatoes contain vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese, and vitamin E.
Cooked tomato has more lycopene and consuming more Ketchup can be pleasant prescription to increase immunity.
Tomato juice can be applied on the face to increase the glow. Tomatoes are a favorite in the food processing industry, which churns out many canned tomato products to be used in cooking like Pasta Sauce, Pizza Sauce, Tomato Puree, Tomato Ketchup and Sauce, Tomato Paste, Tomato Chutney, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Canned Tomatoes, Juice, Pickle, Thokku, and so on.
Tomato plant is propagated from seeds. The seeds have to be dried or fermented before germination.
Sow the seeds at a sunny place and well-drained soil. Transplant into prepared soil two feet apart and as they grow give support. Water well.
Fertilize two weeks prior to first picking and again two weeks after first picking. Pinch off the suckers. Tomatoes are susceptible to insect pests, especially tomato horn-worms and white flies.
Store Tomatoes at room temperature and out of direct exposure to sunlight.
Some of the recipes using Tomatoes are as follows:
Hot Tomato Sauce
Tomato Hot Sauce
Tomato Pudina Chutney
Tomato Sweet Chutney
Tomato Palak Bonda
Tomato Onion Masala
Vaggarane Anna – Rice with Tomato Seasoning
Raw Tomato Palya
Mint and Tomato Pizza
Pepper, Tomato, Corn Relish
Yellu Tomatokayi Chutney – Sesame seeds and Raw Tomato Chutney
Mint and Cherry Tomato Salad
Tomato Onion Uthappa
Conchigli Pasta Tomato