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The Great Tomato

Artful tomatoes courtesy of: Jonas Cepanica

The Great Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

Let me dispel the myths and end the debate once and for all! We all very well know and understand the versatility of the tomato. Native to South America, they were brought to Europe by Spanish explorers. Tomatoes are high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Potassium and Lycopene which is a proven inhibitor of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Lycopene, the most abundant carotenoid in the blood serum, was found to be the key antioxidant that guards against conditions that can cause blindness. They have long since been use to make everything from condiments to candy, jellies, and even wine.

Summer in all of it’s glory produces many wonderful fruits and vegetables but, nothing awaits my summer desires more than the tomato. Did you know that eating tomatoes more than two times a week can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by up to 43 percent? Studies have proven that the only nutrient which turned out to have significant preventative value (against prostate cancer) was lycopene. Researchers tested lycopene levels and antioxidant activity in 13 brands of ketchup: six popular ones, three organic, two store brands and two from fast-food chains. Organic varieties excelled containing up to three times more lycopene than non-organic brands. Organic ketchups have about five times as much lycopene per weight as a tomato.

The tomato is a member of the nightshade family. Tomatoes come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes: large red beefsteaks are slightly irregular; globes are red, medium-size and round; plum tomatoes are egg-shaped and red or yellow (grape tomatoes are baby plums); cherry tomatoes are small and round, and so on. There are many heirloom varieties that are not marketed widely but come in red, yellow, green, purple, as well as striped and spotted. The tomato took some time to be accepted because tomatoes were thought to be poisonous, like other members of the nightshade family. It was not until the early 1900s that tomatoes started to gain popularity in the United States.

A diet rich in tomatoes will boost the level of procollagen in the skin significantly increasing potential reversal of the skin aging process. Cooking tomatoes in oil encourages intestinal absorption and results in a two-to-threefold rise in plasma lycopene concentrations. Tomato sauce is one of the best sources of lycopene Scientists believe that lycopene neutralizes free radicals that are formed when UV radiation strikes the skin. Free radicals have been linked to cancer and the effects of aging.

Tomatoes are available year round, but are at their peak in June to September. The most flavorful are ripened on the vine, not in the store as most are sold. Choose firm tomatoes, richly colored and noticeably fragrant. Ripe tomatoes should be stored at room temperature and used within a few days. You should never refrigerate tomatoes as the cold temperature can kill the flavor and turns the flesh grainy.

So that being said:

In botany, a fruit is the ripened ovary, together with its seeds of a flowering plant. So, botanically speaking a tomato [being an ovary,] is a fruit. More exactly the tomato is a berry.

Yes, it is true but, you may call it a vegetable if you’d like. After all… I am the one who refers to fresh ginger as a vegetable.

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