The tomato owes its bright red colour to a high content of the powerful antioxidant lycopene, making it a delicious and healthy “vegetable” choice. While technically a fruit, in 1893 it was declared a vegetable so this very popular food could be taxed in the USA, and we’ve been using it in our savoury dishes ever since.
It is believed the tomato originated in South America. Today, in Canada, tomatoes are the most purchased of all our vegetables. With over 10,000 tomato varieties to choose from you are sure to find one you like!
The tomato originated in South America in pre-Columbian times and eventually became a staple in the Mexican diet. But for much of its history in North America and Europe, it was considered an ornamental plant; eating it was thought to be unhealthy.
In the 1800s it started to appear in sauces and soups, but it wasn’t until the 1900s that the tomato gained full international acceptance as the popular food we know today.
Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins C and A, and Folacin.
Here are four great reasons to choose tomatoes more often – Lycopene, Lycopene, Lycopene, Lycopene
- The lycopene in tomatoes appears to help with prostate health. While lycopene is available in all tomatoes and tomato products, it is much higher in concentration when the tomatoes are cooked.
- Lycopene has been linked to lower LDL cholesterol levels.
- Lycopene consumption is being studied to reduce markers of many cancers.
- Lycopene has a positive affect on blood pressure in many cardiovascular patients.
The disease-fighting power of the tomato is found in or just below its skin, but often ends up in the waste bins of processing plants. Tomato scientists at the Guelph Food Research Centre are looking at ways to mine this excellent source of lycopene and to find innovative uses for both the food industry and consumers – meaning exciting potential for a product once deemed as waste.
There are more than 300 different varieties of tomatoes commercially grown in Canada.
Even though we have frosty winters, we can grow tomatoes for 10 months of the year, thanks to greenhouse growers. Field tomatoes are available from July to October. Greenhouse tomatoes are available March through December.
Greenhouse tomatoes are produced in most provinces of Canada. Ontario is the largest producer (64% of national acreage), followed by British Columbia (22%) and Quebec (11%).
All greenhouse-grown tomatoes are sold for fresh consumption.
Heirloom tomatoes are generally not available in the standard grocery store, as they are often softer and don’t transport well making them hard to grow commercially. But for flavour alone, these delicious and varied tomatoes are well-worth sourcing at local farmers markets or growing yourself.
Slicing tomatoes from the stem end to the bottom will keep their juices in better than when sliced crosswise.
Here is just a few of the many delicious recipes we are celebrating tomatoes with this month:
Salmon with Tomato & Olive Relish