August, a long, long, looonggg summer. The thermometer is still showing 35ºC at 10:00 pm, and a scented steam raises from the garden, smelling like wet soil and tomato plants. An unmistakable summer perfume that will become red taste on the table, sweet but not sweet and salty without salt. A strange taste, hard to describe and even harder to find at the supermarket. A tomato.
A bit of History
Native to Central America, tomato travelled to Europe from Tenochtitlan, Aztec capital city, where it was called xitomatl: ‘fruit with a navel’. But for long years, even centuries in some places, it was only a decorative plant, because it was thought to be toxic.
However, from XVI century it became a must of Italian and Spanish cuisine. Sauces, gazpacho, soups, salads or just fresh tomatoes with a bit of salt and olive oil, it has always be part of our menu since then.
Properties of tomato
We can say that tomato is the perfect food. Beside of its taste and the hint of colour that it gives to your dishes, it has an endless list of attributes. Tomato contains lots of vitamines and minerals, but its most outstanding feature is the combination of vitamine C and lycopen, a kind of carotene that gives tomato its red color. They both are two of the most powerful known antioxidants, protecting cells against the oxidative stress that causes cancer, cardiovascular illness and skin ageing.
Lycopen is liberated when tomato is cooked, and when it gets in contact with some fatty acids, as the ones in olive oil. So that, tomato sauce, stir-fry and even ketchup are excellent anti-age solutions. In adition, tomato mineralizes our bodies and is a really good diuretic. It helps to expel uric acid and provides only 20 kilocalories per 100 g. So it is perfect for any diet.
Tomato is Umami
We are not the only to say that tomato is delicious. Scientists claim it too. Besides the four traditional tastes (Sweet, salty, bitter and acid) Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda set up a fifth one that he called umami (Japanese word for ‘delicious taste’) . Umamis is present in breast milk, green tea, cheese, aspargus and, obviously, tomatoes. And these last ones are also able to increase the taste of other food.
Food industry has known it for a long time. Aminoacids responsibles for perceiving this taste – mainly glutamate and aspartame- has been isolated for being used as artificial intensifiers. Nowadays, these artificial intensifiers have got a vaery bad press, however researching on their health effects are contradictory.
Nevertheless, why would you wanted to use artificial intensifiers when a pair of good tomatoes is going to get a perfect taste?
Tomato in our kitchen
Organic tomato on its season, or from local producers when we buy tinned tomato, has become in one of our main stars. Obviously it plays a leading role in our Gazpacho, co-starring with fish in our Cod in Tomato Sauce, and it is the guest star of our Pisto with Fried Egg. Three really umami and very healthy choices.