Tomatoes are probably one of the most favorite and consumed products in the world.
Some people claim that it is a fruit, while for some it is definitely a vegetable.
Which is true? Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?
From the scientific point of view, it is certainly a fruit. A common characteristic of fruits is that they grow from the ovary which is located in the flower’s base, and hold the seeds. Having this in mind, eggplants, peppers, pumpkins and cucumbers are also sorts of fruit, as well as different types of nuts.
Botanically speaking, we refer to vegetables when we talk about parts of the plant that we can eat other than fruits of the plant. This includes the leaves (of cabbage, kale, lettuce, and spinach), the roots (turnips, carrots and beets), stems (asparagus, celery), flowers (cauliflower, broccoli), tubers (potatoes) and bulbs (onions).
Tomato is viewed as a vegetable in culinary terms and in the common language since it is a part of savory dishes rather than the sweet ones.
Native to the region of South America, these fruits by the Latin name Lycopersicon esculentum come in a variety of sizes and colors that range from yellow, green, tangerine, orange and red to purple and black in color. Their wonderful juiciness and sweet and sour flavor make tomatoes not only delicious but incredibly versatile as well.
Tomatoes have become a staple ingredient in many popular cuisines. Can you imagine a classic Italian pizza without the tomato ketchup, or spaghetti without a tomato sauce?
Tomatoes offer amazing health benefits
The well-loved taste of the tomatoes represents a tiny segment of their value. Tomatoes offer immense health provisions as well.
They are a rich source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that nourishes and protects our cardiovascular system from damage.Potassium in tomatoes regulates blood pressure and contributes to hearth health.Vitamin C boosts the immune system and keeps the skin young and elastic.
Apart from the lycopene, tomatoes contain an amazing combination of phytonutrients, precious substances that prevent our organs from the damaging effects of free radicals and preserve eye health. Beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxantin protect and boost eye health. The specific acids contained in tomatoes, in combination with lycopene, offer powerful anti-cancer properties.
Tomatoes are rich in fiber, which is important for the digestive system and the prevention of diabetes.Having all this in mind, tomatoes deserve to be a part of our daily diet.
How to preserve them in winter?
The best season to enjoy the succulent and aromatic fresh tomatoes is from the months of July to September.
It would be a real pity not to enjoy their taste and reap their health-boosting properties throughout the year, since there are simple ways in which you can preserve them at home without the use of additives or chemicals. We would like to share some of them.
Tomato paste is a wonderful addition to different dishes. It is not complicated to make and its taste and texture will be preserved for up to 6 months in the freezer.
To prepare it, remove the skin and the seeds from the tomatoes. Cut them up into smaller chunks and cook them over low heat until the texture becomes pasty. You need to add a small amount of salt according to taste.
The suggested measure is half a teaspoon for 5 tomatoes. Then cool the paste, pour it into ice cubes trays and put them in the freezer. Store them in freezer bags after you have removed them from the trays.
2. Freeze the Tomatoes
It is advisable that you remove the skin from the tomatoes before freezing. You can easily do it by cutting an X in the bottom, making sure you do not damage the flesh. Then drop them into a pot of boiling water and the skins will start to split shortly after.
You can continue to cook them for 15 more minutes if you want them stewed. Then plunge them into cold water and you will be able to peel their skins off effortlessly.
Then discard the seeds if you want and cut the tops of the tomatoes. Cut them up in halves or quarters, let them cool completely and put them into freezer bags. Make sure that you squeeze out excess air from the bags, leaving ½ inch from the top of the bag.
3. Make Sun Dried Tomatoes
Without the help of a dehydrator, you can either dry tomatoes in the oven or expose them directly to the sunlight.
Regardless of the method, you will need to cut a small opening in the bottom of the tomatoes and cut them in half. Try to remove most of the seeds and add the spices of your choice: basil, oregano, thyme or salt if you want them enriched in flavor. Dry them in the oven for up to 6 hours at 200 degrees F. After cooling, place them in jars and cover in olive oil. Oven-dried tomatoes will last for 2 months in the fridge.
It will take you 3 days to dry them under the sun, but the air needs to be low in humidity and the tomatoes must not be located on the ground. Expose them equally to a lot of sunlight and turn them occasionally.
4. Make Home-Made Tomato Ketchup
Reward yourself throughout winter with a tasty tomato ketchup.
To prepare it, first shortly boil tomatoes to and then dip them in cold water to get rid of their skins easily. Then clean them from the seeds and squeeze out excess liquid from them. You can save the water from the tomatoes to make juice if you like.
Then follows the cooking process, which requires the addition of preferred seasonings: onions, garlic, salt, sugar, celery, basil or some chilies for a hot twist. Reduce the heat and cook until the ketchup begins to thicken.
To preserve ketchup for further storage, you can use water bath canner for previously sanitized jars.
5. Can Tomatoes without a canner
You will need mason jars and lids for this simple method, a large pot and some lemon juice.
Loosen the skins by boiling tomatoes shortly and plunging them into cold water. After you have done this, put them into sanitized jars.
Add boiling water to the jars, as well as some lemon juice to lower pH levels, leaving ½ inch space between the top of the liquid and the rim. Make sure that the rim is completely clean and put the lid in place, after you have removed air bubbles with the help of a spoon. A large pot will do the work instead of a canner. The jars need to be boiled for around 85 minutes.
6. Make yummy tomato chips
Home-made tomato chips offer a healthy and aromatic option for potato chips.
You will need a dehydrator for this recipe and you will find it extremely useful to easily preserve other types of food. Here is a simple method:
- Slice tomatoes into circles that are about ¼ inches thick. It does not matter if you make them a little thicker than that.
- Lay them on a dehydrator tray, adding some sea salt and dried basil as a seasoning.
- Dry the slices at the temperature indicated for vegetables (which is around 135 degrees) until they become crispy. This could take up to 12 hours.
- When they are done, put them in a tightly closed container and eat as a healthy and delicious snack!
7. Cook tomato jam
If you belong to the lazy cooks club, you can just prepare a small batch of this sweet and sour treat, at least for the beginning. It is a simple recipe that requires 10-12 medium sized tomatoes, ½ cup of sugar, juice of half a lemon and a skillet.
You can add other spices for extra flavor – like ginger for example. First you need to boil tomatoes for a minute. Then remove the skins, core the tomatoes and cut them into pieces or mash them so that you get around 3-4 cups of tomatoes and the liquid. Pour them into the skillet and add sugar and lemon juice. Cook over low heat until the mixture becomes thick and jelly-like. Jam is prepared when it slides off the spoon in the form of two thick driblets.
Quickly pour the jam into a canning jar to avoid further thickening. This jam will last in the fridge for a month’s time.
With a little spare time and good will, you can make yourself proud by preparing your own yummy home-made tomato delicacies and enjoy them all year round.