TYPES AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF TOMATOES
Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable?? The answer is - both! Botanically speaking, the tomato is a red fruit belonging to the 'Nightshade' family (that includes the brinjal), but in terms of cuisine it is considered a vegetable because, unlike other fruits, it is savoury. Tomato plants can reach a height of 3 to 10 feet, with unstable stems that crawl over the ground.
The word 'tomato' comes from the Aztec 'tomatl', which translates into 'swelling fruit'. The Aztecs of Central Mexico were also responsible for the world's first domesticated tomato plant, which were small and yellow and resembling the current cherry tomatoes. After acquiring the Aztec town of Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), the Spanish brought the yellow tomatoes to the Caribbean, Europe and the Philippines, from where it spread throughout the Asian continent.
Tomatoes today come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours. The smallest tomatoes are the 'tom berries' (which measure 5mm in diameter), while the 'beefsteak' tomatoes are around 10 cms in diameter. Colours include the most common orange-red, yellow, pink, purple, green, white and even black! Some have a combination of different colours, can appear striped (Green Zebra tomatoes) or have a fuzzy coating (fuzzy Peach tomatoes). Based on shape and size, tomatoes are of different types:-
1)Globe Tomatoes - These are the most commonly cultivated tomatoes, used for raw eating.
2)Beefsteak Tomatoes - These large tomatoes are used for sandwiches, and because of their thinner skin and shorter shelf-life, transporting them is not practical.
3)Oxheart Tomatoes - These tomatoes can grow to be as big as the beefsteak ones and are shaped like large strawberries.
4)Plum Tomatoes - Plum tomatoes, mainly grown for use in sauces have low water content and are elongated in shape.
5)Pear Tomatoes - These are, as the name suggests, shaped like pears and make a rich cooking paste.
6)Cherry Tomatoes - These small round tomatoes are sweet and make a great ingredient in salads.
7)Grape Tomatoes - These are variations of the plum tomatoes and are shaped like grapes. They are mostly used in salads.
8)Campari Tomatoes - These juicy tomatoes are bigger than cherry tomatoes, but smaller then the plum ones.
Tomatoes are used in a variety of foods – sauces, pastes, soups, curries, salads, sandwiches, snacks and so on. Green tomatoes can be fried or used to make salsa sauce. Unripe tomatoes, when stored in room temperature, out of direct sunlight will keep for up to 4 days. When ripe, they should be consumed within 2 days.
Health Benefits of Eating Tomatoes
1)Rich in Vitamins and Minerals - Tomatoes are an excellent source of Vitamins C and A. They also provide healthy amounts of potassium, iron, folate and niacin.
2)Lycopene - Lycopene is one of the most powerful natural antioxidants available in fruits. It has been known to improve skin and provide it UV protection. Italian researchers found that eating healthy amounts of tomatoes reduced the risks of developing rectal and stomach cancers. Lycopene (which makes tomatoes red) helps in flushing out the free radicals floating around in the body, thereby protecting the body from a number of other cancers, such as prostate cancer, colon cancer and cancers of the mouth, pharynx and oesophagus. There is a lot of lycopene in a small amount of tomato juice, making one glass of it daily, very good for us.
3)Protects the Liver - Tomatoes protect the liver from cirrhosis and congestion.
4)Purifies Blood - Tomatoes also help to cleanse the blood and dissolve gallstones.
5)Heart Healthy - Tomatoes help lower blood cholesterol and so prevent chances of heart attacks.
6)Keeps infections away - The red fruit is a natural antiseptic that protects us from infections.
7)Protects our Bones - The Vitamin K in tomatoes helps keep our bones healthy.
8)Migraine Control - Tomatoes contain Riboflavin, which helps prevent migraines in people who suffer from them.
9)Good for Diabetics - Tomatoes are rich in the mineral chromium, which helps people with diabetes keep their blood sugar levels in check.