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His Majesty The Tomato its history and benefits

by Carmine Rizzo 27 Oct 2022
The History

The wild tomato, or Solanum lycopersicum, is native to South West America. It began to spread in the 16th century and was introduced to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors. Today it is cultivated all over the world, although in pre-Columbian times it was only known in Central and South America.

So, as is always the case when it comes to gardens and vegetable gardens, tomatoes were used by the Maya and the Aztecs, who grew them in southern Mexico.

It is said that the Spanish conquistadors discovered this wonderful plant during an inspection in the Amazon rainforest. As they were walking through the trees, they came across a pile of leaves that did not seem to follow any particular rules, so they decided to collect them.

Obviously, the conquistadors did not know the plant in question, but after studying it carefully, they decided to call it 'tar-nip', which means leaf in Spanish.

Once back home and after picking some tomatoes in the garden to check their freshness, they noticed that the fruits were very similar to leaves. So they decided to call them 'tomatoes', a name derived from the word 'tomate' which means 'tomato' in Spanish.

A wild tomato plant can grow up to two metres high and tends to grow in large, dense clusters. The leaves are large, dark green with yellow or pink margins. The stems bear large leaves with 5-7 lobes; the stigmas are rounded or pointed attached to them. The yellow or red berries, smaller in the latter case, are surrounded by five or six lobes. The plant produces many seeds that are white and about 2 cm long, with a discoid shape pointed at the end.

The name golden apple comes from a golden yellow tomato. Today there are many colours of tomatoes, but the red colour is the most common.

What are the benefits of tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a very digestible food, with very little fat and lots of vitamins (A, C and E) that help to keep the skin perfect.

We are talking about a real concentrate of Vitamin C, which is contained in high proportions in both the skin and the pulp: just chew some fresh tomato leaves for a few minutes to get proof of this. Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, an important connective tissue that enables the body to resist immune aggression and free radicals. Totally free of calories and low in fat, it does not even contain 1% protein.

The tomato is a fruit that encapsulates the benefits of vitamin C: its delicate flesh contains 10 times the necessary amount of this vitamin for an average adult.

Precisely because of its high potassium content, the tomato is useful against heart disease: in fact, thanks to its hydrated salts, it is able to counteract heart cramps.

To which category does the tomato belong?

Who would have thought that the tomato, an ingredient we eat often and enjoy so much, could be so intriguing? The cultivated tomato is known in botany as Solanum lycopersicum (or Lycopersicon esculentum according to the phytosanitary regulations). This plant belongs to a family called 'Solanaceae' which has more than 5,000 species. Its red fruits are an icon of Mediterranean cuisine and of Italy in particular.

Why does the tomato make you lose weight?

The summer season is a time of water retention and weight gain, but with the low calorie content of the tomato and its rich fibre and water content, it can help you beat these problems. Tomatoes contain 95 per cent liquids which promote diuresis to fight those pesky excess pounds!

What is the harm in eating too many tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a staple in summer recipes, but they can be hard on the stomach. Consuming too many tomatoes can lead to heartburn or worsen symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Tomato dishes always seem like the perfect meal for hot days when you are looking for something refreshing and light - that is until it is time to digest them later! Tomatoes have some properties that make them acidic instead of alkaline (unlike other fruits).
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