Whether it is their fantastic taste, their
impressive health beneﬁts or simply their
stunning good looks - tomatoes have
established themselves as an ‘essential’
part of the New Zealand lifestyle!
“A world without
tomatoes is like
a string quartet
L. Colwyn, Home Cooking
have become the
centre of attention…
t he much heralded ‘Mediterranean diet’ is widely
believed to confer health beneﬁts with respect to
preventing particular cancers and cardiovascular
disease. It typically contains a signiﬁcant proportion of fruit
and vegetables, cereals, ﬁsh, olive oil and red wine.
When the general components of the Mediterranean diet
were studied, the beneﬁts were attributed variously to
the high amounts of ﬁbre, vitamin intake and the omega 3
polyunsaturated oils in whole grains and monounsaturated
olive oil. More recently, the contributions made by
antioxidants and other phytochemicals such as the sulfur
compounds in the onion family and the phenolics in red
wine have been investigated. More recently still, attention has
turned to the ubiquitous tomato and the pigment that gives
it the characteristic red colour, lycopene.
What are Vitamins and ﬁbre
Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C and vitamin A equivalents
the ‘goodies’ in the form of ß-carotene and also provide some vitamin E, folic acid,
potassium and other trace elements. Protein and dietary ﬁbre are also
in a tomato? present. Tomatoes that have been processed may have higher levels of
some nutrients due to higher concentration.
In the past much of the goodness of tomatoes has been put down to
the ﬁbre, vitamins and minerals. But it appears now that whilst these
nutrients are important, it is phytochemicals that really pack the punch
in keeping us healthy. Phytochemicals are natural plant compounds,
often responsible for the bright colours of vegetables and fruit. There
are literally hundreds of different phytochemicals. Many of these
compounds are antioxidants, substances that inactivate certain harmful
reactive compounds in the body (free radicals). There are many
different antioxidants, one of the most well known being lycopene.
In addition, carotenoids (e.g. ß-carotene, phytoene, phytoﬂuene),
phenolics (e.g. coumaric and chlorogenic acids, quercetin, rutin
and naringenin) vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and
vitamin E (tocopherol) are present.
Of these antioxidant components lycopene is of
particular interest since it is available in relatively
few other foods, yet is present in tomatoes in
reasonable quantities. More detailed information
is available at www.vegetables.co.nz in the
tomato section under Crop & Food Research
Report 1391: Nutritional Attributes of Tomatoes.
To enhance the taste... fresh herbs like basil, marjoram, chives, italian ﬂat parsley
and coriander team brilliantly with tomatoes. Freshly ground black pepper and
ﬂakey rock salt are also the perfect complements.
What is all Considerable research is being conducted into the health beneﬁts of
lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants neutralise
the fuss over free radicals which may cause damage to cell components (e.g. DNA,
protein, lipids). Lycopene may also have a range of other actions.
lycopene The strongest scientiﬁc evidence is a role for lycopene in reducing
about? the incidence of prostate cancer. Lycopene may also help reduce the
incidence of other cancers and cardiovascular diseases and play a role
in eye health.
Tomatoes were considered
poisonous in some
parts of Europe when
early Spanish explorers
brought them to the old
world from their native
South America. This belief
was also held in North
America, until, so the story
goes, a champion for the
tomato cause, Colonel
Robert Gibbon Johnson,
announced he would eat
a bushel of tomatoes
in front of the Boston
a 2,000 strong crowd
arrived, expecting to
witness his demise, but Getting the best out of tomatoes...
to their amazement he Use the whole tomato - ﬂesh, skin and seeds. Eating the whole tomato,
lived and any remaining including the skins and seeds, with a little good quality oil optimises the
doubts about the tomato delivery of the potential beneﬁts of tomatoes in general, and lycopene
were dramatically and speciﬁcally. Cooking also enhances the lycopene availability, but can
conclusively put to rest! reduce levels of other nutrients such as vitamin C.
Why are New Zealand grown tomatoes are ripened on the vine which makes
them tastier than most imported varieties. They also tend to have a
NZ tomatoes more intense red colour when ripe and therefore higher lycopene
content than some of the ﬁeld grown imported varieties.
choice? Getting the best ﬂavour…
Flavour is affected by quality, temperature and ripeness.
• Choose smooth, ﬁrm and plump tomatoes with an even colour and
• As a general rule, the smaller the tomato the more intense
• Keep tomatoes out of the fridge. Tomatoes should be stored at
room temperature out of direct sunlight - your fruit bowl is a great
place. Refrigerated tomatoes do not have the full ﬂavour of tomatoes
stored at room temperature. Refrigeration replicates natures ‘end of
season’ and sets off the natural decay process making them weak and
watery, losing nutritional content.
• Make sure they are ripe when you eat them. To get tomatoes
through the distribution system they are not completely ripe when
picked. If they are not a rich red colour, remove them from the plastic
bag or punnet and store them at room temperature. It may take
3 - 4 days in summer and up to one week in winter before they are
ripe enough to eat.
For more intense ﬂavour… keep them out of the fridge, make sure they are
really ripe and buy New Zealand grown!
• Nearly 50% of NZ households buy fresh
tomatoes each week.
• Reported household expenditure is deﬁnitely
skewed to higher incomes; 40% of lower
incomes report weekly household
expenditure, whilst 60% of higher income
households report weekly expenditure.
• The average household spends $1.15 per
week on fresh tomatoes, therefore of those What’s in a name?
that buy them (remember around half don’t) The word “tomato” comes from the Aztec “tomatl”,
most spend around $2.30 per week. which was used by the Spanish explorers who
originally took the fruit back to Europe. In Italy it
• Potatoes and tomatoes consistently rank in
was quickly adopted into the local cuisine and was
the top two positions in terms of money known as “pomo d’oro”, or golden apple, which
spent on them. 2003/04 is the ﬁrst time that suggests the ﬁrst tomatoes there were yellow. In
tomatoes have reached the number one France it was called ‘pomme d’amour’ or love apple.
position. Retail sales of tomatoes increased This may have been a corruption of the Italian or
25% between 2001 and 2002 from 71,828 to may have reﬂected a belief that tomatoes have
89,670 ($ millions). This is considered to be aphrodisiac powers. It was for the latter reason
attributable to the consistent high quality of that tomatoes were forbidden to women in some
standard tomatoes and the greater range of cultures! The botanical name is Lycopersicon
specialty tomatoes now available throughout esculentum meaning ‘edible wolf peach’, which is
the year. derived from the German name for deadly
Source: 2003/04 Household Economic Survey Statistics NZ nightshade, a relative of the tomatoes believed
to be used by witches to summon werewolves.
The range of specialty and pre-packed tomatoes has increased dramatically
Tomato in the last 2 - 3 years. Most tomato varieties are of Dutch origin and are
varieties selected for ﬂavour, quality, colour and size.There are a lot of varieties of
standard tomatoes, however these tend not to be identiﬁed at purchase.
grown in NZ. Whilst there are exceptions, loose tomatoes tend to be sold in the North
Island with the calyx (green stem) removed and in the South Island with
the calyx on!
Vine tomatoes Plum tomatoes
Tomatoes on the vine, also called truss, are These tomatoes are a ﬂeshy fruit, oval or plum
enjoying a huge surge in popularity. Small, medium shaped and usually medium sized. Many plum
and large tomatoes are sold on the vine. There varieties are low in acid, although not all. Large
are many different vine varieties and as a general plum varieties are often referred to as Roma.
rule these tend to have a very intense ﬂavour.
Cherry or cocktail tomatoes These only make up around 1% of the total
These have a sweet intense ﬂavour and are tomato crop grown in New Zealand.
particularly popular with children. Outdoor tomatoes tend to be less ﬁrm than
Several different varieties are on the market. greenhouse grown tomatoes and have a lumpier
Coloured red or yellow, the shapes can vary from and ﬂatter shape.
round, oval to pear shaped. Small plum tomatoes
are particularly sweet and higher in acid.
Low acid tomatoes
Often called acid free, these have ﬁrmer ﬂesh, Packaging
fewer pips and less juice. They come in differing
shapes and sizes but are generally oval and often
misshapen. They can be unevenly coloured with
a more pinky colour than ripe red. Levels of Packaging is used to
acid vary with variety and no tomato is entirely ensure convenience
acid free. and that the tomato
remains in the best
Tomatoes were originally grown for their decorative qualities.
Around 99% of New Zealand tomatoes are grown in greenhouses.
How are The total greenhouse area covers approximately 120 hectares.
tomatoes Greenhouses can range in size from as small as 0.2ha (2,000 square
meters) right up to 10ha. The average commercial tomato greenhouse is
grown in NZ? in the range of 0.6 - 1.0 ha. Modern greenhouses are either covered in
glass or special plastic ﬁlm.
A large percentage of growers produce their crops in soil-less media,
planting into pumice or sawdust ﬁlled containers, or in rockwool and
coconut ﬁbre blocks and hydroponic troughs. These are all hydroponic
or semi-hydroponic systems. However, a small number of growers are
still growing in the soil. Most growers heat their greenhouses for frost
protection and maintain temperatures for increased productivity, fewer
diseases and consistent quality.
Most growers are committed to ‘full-time year round’ production which
means using the very latest computer technology to manage growing
conditions. This creates the optimum growing conditions for the lifetime
of the crop. Most growers use bumble bees for pollination to give
improved fruit setting and improved quality of the tomatoes. They also
use sustainable crop management practices (sometimes called integrated
pest management or IPM) to control disease and pests, such as whiteﬂy.
Genetic Genetic Engineering (GE) and tomatoes
Many media articles use photos of tomatoes when discussing GE and
Engineering stories abound, including crossing frog genes with tomatoes. These myths
and misrepresentations create a lot of confusion and concern for
(GE) and consumers and growers alike. While in the past there have been attempts
tomatoes. overseas to develop GE tomatoes, they haven’t been accepted by consumers.
Let’s get the facts straight here, there are NO genetically engineered
tomatoes commercially grown in New Zealand.
All of our tomatoes are products of natural selection and cross breeding
that go back for at least ﬁfteen years for each variety. The attractiveness,
uniformity and quality of NZ grown tomatoes are a result of the total
climate control that is achieved with modern greenhouse technology,
growers’ production skills and knowledge.
To slice The sharper the knife the better, as it will easily
Tomato slice through the skin giving a clean cut surface
preparation and causing as little cell damage as possible. Finely
serrated, very sharp knives speciﬁcally for
tips. tomatoes are available.
To remove Peeled tomatoes are good in cooked dishes or
the skins in sauces where you require a smoother texture.
To remove the skin, submerge in boiling water
for 15 - 20 seconds and then plunge into cold
water. The skin should split and slip off easily. If it
doesn’t, repeat the process.
To slow roast Place the tomatoes, either whole if they are small
or halved for larger sizes, in a roasting tray and
drizzle with olive oil. Bake, uncovered, at 150ºC
for one hour or until the tomatoes are shriveled
The tomato is actually a fruit but is considered a vegetable because of its uses.
Delicious • Make a stunning salad with • Microwave kumara, with the
tomato wedges, crumbled feta skin on. Allow 3 - 4 minutes
ways to get and crispy cooked bacon on a per kumara. Split and ﬁll with
bed of spinach leaves. chopped ham or salami,
tomatoes into chopped tomatoes, sour cream.
• Sliced tomatoes on toast are a
Drizzle with pesto sauce.
your day. great start to the day. Or serve on
Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
crackers for the best morning tea.
• Slice tomatoes, red onion and
• The famous BLT - bacon, lettuce
cucumber. Add basil leaves and
and tomato sandwich - even
your favourite vinaigrette.
better with avocado added!
• Add two or three cherry
• For a delicious salsa, ﬁnely dice
tomatoes in lunchboxes as a
red onions and mix with ﬁnely
diced tomato. Spice it up with
some sweet chilli sauce. • For a delicious quick salad,
drizzle sliced tomato with
• Add red to your barbecue with
avocado oil (plain or ﬂavoured),
tomato halves and red capsicum
top with ﬁnely chopped fresh
strips. Brush sparingly with oil
basil or coriander.
and turn frequently during cooking.
Greenhouse growing has ensured a year round supply of high quality tomatoes.
Get some red - add a tomato to enjoy your
5+ A Day the colour way!
Written with assistance from the New Zealand Institute for Crop & Food Research.
NZ Vegetable and Potato Growers’ Federation Inc.
PO Box 10232 Wellington Ph 64 4 472 3795