Hello my dear readers,
I hope you had a great weekend! Monday is here, a new week is here, don’t be sad, let’s try to enjoy it and make it worth it 🙂
This week I’ll like to take you in a journey to discover a very loved summer ingredient: tomatoes!
Did you know that currently the tomato together with the potato, are the most cultivated vegetables in the world?
Is impossible not to see the tomatoes as a protagonist of dishes and foods that have become part of tradition: how to conceive its lack from the Mediterranean cuisine, from the pizza, from many sauces and salads?
The tomato plant is native from Latin America, it developed in tropical climates and in particular in the areas that now correspond to the states of Peru and Ecuador and from here it was taken to Mexico by the Maya and then widely used by the Aztecs. It seems that they already produced salsa with tomatoes, to which they attributed great virtues, among others also an aphrodisiac power.
The original tomatoes, however, were certainly not the ones we find today in our gardens: we enjoy the fruits of a long selection, implemented for centuries by the farmers of the various eras, starting from the Aztecs, who cultivated it in the southern regions of Mexico. It was here that Hernán Cortés, famous explorer, saw it during the occupation of the region, between 1519 and 1521. From Mexico the seeds arrived in Spain following missionaries, who borrowed the term tomatl used by the natives, called tomate the new fruit. Around 1532 the dictionaries set the first attestation in Spanish of the word tomate.
In the eyes of Europeans, the plant from the Americas was similar to a species already known and poisonous, the solanum nigrum (black grass). It was considered that even the tomato was not edible, because in the past tomatoes could have had greater solanine content, therefore were non-toxic but were difficult to digest. The plant was later improved in quality and aesthetics and by 1572 we find already the red tomatoes.
Although not appreciated from the culinary point of view, the tomatoes spread for ornamental purposes: showing exotic plants was a source of pride for the nobles, especially in France where the vegetable was planted in the park of the palace of Versailles for the pride of the Sun king.
It took two centuries to reach a significant consumption of tomatoes in the old continent: until 1700 the general distrust prevented the vegetables from spreading. The famines of the 1800s were a strong incentive to look for new foods and this allowed to discover the food richness of tomatoes.
The tomato arrived in Italy shortly after its arrival in Spain, as the Spaniards had possessions in Italy and maintained excellent relations with the various lords and the Bourbon empire.
Sicily, was probably the first Italian region that knew the new plant, thanks to the direct Spanish influence on the island; in fact from this region come the most ancient Italian recipes based on tomatoes, especially dried sauces and preserves.
The “official” and documented history of the tomato in Italy begins on October 31, 1548 in Pisa, when Cosimo de ‘Medici receives from the Florentine estate of Torre del Gallo a basket of tomatoes born from seeds donated to his wife, Eleanor of Toledo, from his father, Viceroy of the Kingdom of Naples.
The spread of tomatoes in Italy, however, was very slow: the initial distrust of the new vegetable, which cannot be associated with any known food, mortified its gastronomic potential for a long time. Only in the eighteenth century, will the period of gastronomic “experimentation” begin, which will lead to the wider spread that we know today.
Tomatoes can be easily grown both in garden and in pots. All they need is warm and sunny, sheltered from the wind, and a soil rich in nutrients, neutral and well-drained, and, will need also supports for the plant.
Over the past 200 years tomatoes have become one of the most important vegetable crops, many varieties have been selected for cultivation, adapting the plant to the most diverse climates and soils.
From the cherry tomato to the ox heart tomato, from the classic salsa tomato to the extravagant black tomatoes, we are talking about a vegetable that we never have enough, thanks to its many varieties and the thousand uses it finds in the kitchen. The satisfaction of eating a tomato picked directly from its own plant will repay all the agricultural work required.
The tomato should be sown in the trays, between February and March, the seed sprouts in about a week. It must be placed in a warm environment: it takes about 24 degrees to sprout. It then requires at least 13 degrees to grow. Tomato is a plant sensitive to temperature rather than to daylight hours.
From sowing to seedbed it is then passed to the pot, up to the pre-flowering stage. At this point it can be transplanted, as long as the minimum temperatures are at least 10 degrees. The flowers need a minimum of 13 degrees to attach, otherwise there is a fruitless drop. The transplantation in the pre-flowering phase, when the plants are about 30 cm high, allows the seedlings to be arranged with the flowers facing the flower bed, so that all the flowers will emerge from that side and the harvest will be very convenient.
To decide at what distance to transplant the tomato seedlings it is necessary to know if the plant has a specific habit (it stops growing and reaches a certain size, therefore it does not require supports) or with an indeterminate habit (it is necessary to prepare supports). Vegetable tomatoes are usually of indeterminate growth and rows are made 70 cm apart (50 cm along the row between one plant and another).
Of course if you decide to grow them in pots, no need of transplantation.
From time to time cut the side shoots that develop in the axils of the leaves, when they exceed 5 cm in length. This operation allows the sap to concentrate in the fruits.
The ideal soil for growing tomatoes is with ph 6, the soil must be fairly loose and draining, without stagnant water that would favor plant diseases. To obtain a good harvest, the soil must be rich in nutrients and organic substance. In fact, tomatoes are a fairly “greedy” vegetable.
Although types of tomatoes that are quite resistant to cold have been selected, it is still a plant that fears frost, and above all that requires excellent sun exposure so you need to find that sun-kissed place. The plant also fears excessive dryness, which can be limited by mulching and irrigation.
Tomatoes are a food used daily for the preparation of many recipes and it can be considered the author of a gastronomic revolution.
There are about four thousand varieties of tomatoes that are traditionally divided into: table tomatoes, peeled tomatoes and salsa tomatoes, juices and concentrates.
Summer is the season of red gold: whole fields cultivated with different varieties of tomatoes, which ripen is giving us great satisfaction. Its variations in the kitchen are endless, from classic traditional dishes to the most innovative recipes.
Tomato can be used as a base ingredient for a granita or a salty sorbet, to combine with a raw fish or meat. You can sauté in a pan with oil and garlic, slice in a salad or fill with many ingredients, from bread to rice, from cheese to tuna.
To refresh the hot summer days, why not prepare a delicious cocktail like the Bloody Mary? Or a nice tomato soup? As an ingredient allows you to give the green light to personal imagination. Summer is also the perfect time for raw sauces: simply take some ripe tomatoes, put them in boiling water for a maximum of ten minutes just to peel them easily without cooking them, so as not to lose their freshness; then you have to gently squeeze and cut them into pieces, adding basil and extra virgin olive oil: it will be an irresistible sauce to season your pasta!
In the preparation of the second course the tomato can be used in various ways, for example in fish stew. Finally, its sweeter note reveals the tomato in desserts, where it also contributes with its note of acidity, used as a main ingredient or as a transverse component, such as tomato confit.
Tomato has healing qualities against: arteriosclerosis, hypertension, pulmonary infections, bulimia, rheumatism, gout, loss of appetite, fluid retention, cramps, muscle weakness.
A tomato, rich in beta-carotene, lycopene and vitamin is more effective, against aging than any medicine, being the antioxidant for excellence and fighting free radicals responsible for cell aging.
The caloric intake of the tomato is naturally low (it supplies only 16 kcal for 100 g) for this reason it is particularly indicated in slimming diets, thanks to its high content of water.
Composed of 94% water, they are rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene and potassium. They also contain vitamins B and E, folic acid, iron, phosphorus and calcium.
Thanks to the sour taste, the tomato stimulates the secretions of the digestive system and favors the good assimilation of what has been eaten.
The imagination, especially of the Italians, has over time enhanced the tomato, exalting it in many of our daily dishes and allowing it to become part of the “Mediterranean cuisine” family, despite the sea of origin of the tomato being the Atlantic!
Thank you for reading and for joining me in this discovering journey! I hope you like tomatoes as much as I do 🙂
Join me next time and let’s discover Sicily, the first Italian region that knew the tomato plant.
And last but not least, if only we could understand before it is too late that nothing is forever. Try to not live in regrets! Nothing is forever!
Have a great week!
Bye bye for now 🙂