The tomato is a round fruit which grows on vines, ripening mainly in the summer.
Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family.
They are most commonly red, but can also be green, yellow, orange, pink, black, brown, ivory, white, purple, striped, and can have fuzzy skin.
Originated in South America, the word “tomato” comes from the Aztecan word tomatl, literally “the swelling fruit“. 1
The Southwest native Americans are thought to have believed that those who witnessed the ingestion of tomato seeds were blessed with powers of divination. 2
When the Spanish colonized the Americas, they brought the tomato back to Europe and their various colonies.
In Britain, and certain areas of Italy, such as Florence, people were initially hesitant to eat the new fruit. In Florence, the fruit was used solely as a tabletop decoration before it was incorporated into the local cuisine in the late 17th or early 18th century.
Poison! Reportedly, one of the earliest cultivators in England was John Gerard, a barber-surgeon. Gerard is said to have known the tomato was eaten in Spain and Italy. Nonetheless, he believed it was poisonous. Gerard’s views were influential, and the tomato was considered unfit for eating (though not necessarily poisonous) for many years in Britain and its North American colonies.
Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, carotene, and other antioxidants. Tomatoes contain the fat-soluble carotene lycopene. Research suggests these antioxidants may help prevent certain cancers, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. 3, 4, 5
This week’s recipe is Tomato Bruschetta. Bruschetta is an Italian antipasto or appetizer. It is traditionally composed of slices of grilled bread, rubbed with garlic, and drizzled with olive oil. They are often topped with tomatoes and herbs, or prosciutto. This is a great dish for Fourth of July cookouts, as they can be made on a BBQ grill. 6
1 large, ripe tomato, chopped
1 mini baguette, sliced
1 Tablespoon butter
3 teaspoons olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tablespoons parmesan
salt to taste
2 Tablespoons mozzarella cheese, grated
Optional: chiffenaded fresh basil for garnish
1. Place oven rack approximately 6″ from oven broiler. Preheat oven on broil setting. (Or fire up the grill.)
2. Mash together butter, olive oil, garlic, parmesan, and salt to taste with fork in bowl.
3. Spread on bread slices.
5. Remove bruschetta from oven when golden brown and cheese melts.
6. Top bruschetta with tomatoes, salted to taste.
7. Top tomatoes with mozzarella cheese.
8. Return to broiler until cheese melts.
9. Optional: Garnish tomato bruschetta with fresh basil.
1. Smith, A. F. (1994). The Tomato in America: Early History, Culture, and Cookery. Columbia SC, USA: University of South Carolina Press.
5. Shidfar, F.; Froghifar, N.; Vafa, M.; Rajab, A.; Hosseini, S.; Shidfar, S.; Gohari, M. (2011). “The Effects of Tomato Consumption on Serum Glucose, Apolipoprotein B, Apolipoprotein A-I, Homocysteine and Blood Pressure in Type 2 Diabetic Patients”. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 62 (3): 289–294.