Tomato Facts by Scottrenkes

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									TOMATOES -

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
                       without violins”
                       L. Colwyn, Home Cooking
nutritionally tomatoes
        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 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.

Checkered history…
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
courthouse. Apparently
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.
your best
choice?       Getting the best flavour…
              Flavour is affected by quality, temperature and ripeness.
              • Choose smooth, firm and plump tomatoes with an even colour and
                 no blemishes.
              • As a general rule, the smaller the tomato the more intense
                 the flavour.
              • 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!
Tomato facts
and figures.

• 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.
                                                       Outdoor tomatoes
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
                                                           possible condition.

                                                         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
                              and fragrant.

                                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
                                                               quick ‘extra’.
                  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

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