Tomatoes

Tomatoes actually originate in western South American, in a region spanning across Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Bolivia. The tomato, however, was first cultivated in Mexico, before Spanish explorers brought seeds back to Spain in the 1500s. From there, tomato cultivation spread across Europe, including to Italy, which is closely associated with the tomato today.

However, the vegetable wasn’t popular right away! Europeans held a slight disdain for it due to its association as a nightshade plant, worrying it to be poisonous.

Today, tomatoes are cultivated worldwide, and about 130 million tons are produced per year. The largest producer of tomatoes is China.

There are over 300 varieties of tomatoes grown in Ontario! Generally, these 300 will either be round, roma/plum, and beefsteak.

Round: good for slicing and eating raw; they are medium-sized and globe-shaped.

Plum: small, plum-shaped with thick flesh; they are good for preserving, sauces, or salads.

Beefsteak: small to large, but flatter and fleshier than the round tomato; good for both cooking and eating raw.

Common Ontario field varieties:

  • Sunrise
  • Pik Rite
  • Mountain Pride
  • Pilgrim
  • Red Star
  • Ultra-Sweet
Tomatoes are low in calories, while being high in vitamin C, biotin, and vitamin K. They also are a good source of potassium, dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin E!
When selecting a field tomato, look for one that is firm (though not hard), with a slightly supple quality. Avoid ones with bruising, though small surface cracks won’t affect the quality of the tomato. Puffy tomatoes may result in excess waste during preparation.

Select tomatoes that are rich in colour, whether that is red, orange, yellow, or purple.

Tomatoes are sensitive to cold and will not ripen well. Store them at room temperature out of direct sunlight. They will keep for up to a week.

To hasten ripening, place a tomato in a brown paper bag with apples, pears or bananas. The ethylene gas will speed up the tomato’s maturation.

Overripe tomatoes can be stored in the refrigerator, in a high humidity drawer or the butter compartment, to keep them for an additional day or two.

Whole, chopped, and tomato sauce can be frozen for future use.

Rinse tomatoes under running water and drain on a clean towel or pat dry before preparing.

To slice tomatoes, slice from the stem end to bottom. This will keep the juice better than slicing horziontally.

To peel, dip the tomato in boiling water for 10 to 30 seconds, using a fork to pierce the stem end. Submerge in cold water, and when cool enough, gently loosen the skin with a knife tip and peel.

To seed, halve the tomatoes horizontally and gently squeeze the seeds out. Keep in mind though, the seeds are high in nutrients as well and may be worth keeping in the dish!

Avoid cooking tomatoes with aluminum cookware, as the high acid content of tomatoes may react with the metal.

Tomatoes
Seasonal Availability
Field: July to October
Greenhouse: March to November

Nutrition per 1 tomato (123 g), raw:

Nutrient Value
Calories 22
Protein 1 g
Carbohydrates 5 g
Total Sugar 3 g
Total Dietary Fibre 1.5 g
Calcium 12 mg
Iron 0.3 mg
Sodium 6 mg
Potassium 292 mg
Magnesium 14 mg
Vitamin C 16 mg

Provided by Health Canada