Tomato

Curvy and juicy!

Tomato is the basic vegetable ingredient for the Greek or “Horiatiki” Salad and many other signature Greek cuisine dishes everyone has to taste when visiting Greece, like “tomatokeftedes” (fried tomato burgers) or “gemista” (stuffed vegetables with rice and herbs).

tomatoTomato is a wonderfully popular and versatile food that comes in over a thousand different varieties that vary in shape, size, and color. There are big red tomatoes, small cherry tomatoes, bright yellow tomatoes, green tomatoes and a lot more.

Tomatoes are fruits in a botanical sense, but they don’t have the dessert quality sweetness of other fruits. Instead they have a subtle sweetness that is complemented by a slightly bitter and acidic taste.

While most often associated with lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient widely recognized for its antioxidant properties, tomatoes provide a broader, unique array of phytonutrients such as additional carotenoids like beta-carotene, flavonoids and more.

Tomatoes are also an excellent source of free radical-scavenging vitamin C and vitamin A as well as bone-healthy vitamin K. They are a very good source of enzyme-promoting molybdenum, heart-healthy potassium, vitamin B6, folate, dietary fiber, and blood sugar-balancing manganese. In addition, tomatoes are a good source of heart-healthy magnesium, niacin, vitamin E, energy-producing iron, vitamin B1, and phosphorus, muscle-building protein, and bone-healthy copper.

The tomato appears to have been first cultivated in Mexico, most likely in Aztec civilizations and probably in the form of small yellow fruits. The word “tomato” may actually originate from the Aztecan word “tomatl” meaning “the swelling fruit.” It wasn’t until the 1500’s that Spanish explorers and colonizers brought tomato seeds from Mexico back to Spain and introduced this food to European populations. In Greece the tomato was introduced in 1818, like the potato, but its systematic cultivation began in the early 20th century, and it soon became “our vegetable” like it has been growing here forever.

Tomatoes may not be of Greek “origin”, our land’s, sundrenched soil love them though, and it’s no secret that Greek homegrown tomatoes taste and smell better than any other tomato you’ve ever tasted. Some of the most cultivated and delicious Greek varieties are the Vravrona’s tomato “Batala”, the Cretan pomodori, the small tomatoes of Santorini and the oxheart tomato.

tomato2Greek cuisine adores tomato because it is a very versatile vegetable which has the ability to transform into food, dessert, juice, alcoholic beverage, soup, puree and a lot more culinary alternatives. When combined with Greek olive oil, the result is delicious, either it is to make a salad or to make a kind of food we call “lathera”, meaning simmered in olive oil, like okra and green beans in oil or eggplant imam.

So, the next time you’ll find yourself vacationing in Greece, somewhere near the sea, visit a tavern and taste Greek tomatoes in your salad or your meal, the tasting experience is incomparable for every food lover!

MLGFB Tip:

How to make “gemista”, stuffed tomatoes, peppers and eggplants

Ingredients: 6 large tomatoes firm and ripe, 3 eggplants medium size, 3 green bell peppers, 1 courgette coarsely grated, 12tbs Carolina rice, 2 onions finely chopped, 1½ tea cup of extra virgin olive oil, a small bunch of finely chopped parsley, 1/2 tea cup of dried bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon sugar, salt, freshly ground pepper

gemista

  • Wash all vegetables thoroughly
  • Slice the top of each tomato without fully separating the pieces.  Use a tea spoon to remove most of the interior leaving only a minimum amount of flesh next to the skin, to help the tomato maintain its shape
  • Sprinkle each tomato with a pinch of salt and a tiny bit of sugar.  Turn them upside down and place them in a tray to drain off their juice.
  • Slice the top of each pepper and remove the seeds and whitish flesh.
  • Slice a thin layer from the bottom of each eggplant to enable their placement in the baking pan.  Remove the stalk and most of the flesh of each eggplant and chop the flesh finely.
  • Prepare the stuffing as follows.  Pass the tomato flesh through the food processor.  Keep ½  of the purée separately.
  • Use a deep frying pan and half the olive oil to stir fry the finely chopped onion, the courgette and the eggplant flesh for 2 to 3 minutes to wilt.  Add the rice and combine everything well.
  • Pour ½ the tomato purée and one tea cup of water over the mixture.  Season according to taste and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and sprinkle with parsley
  • Make sure the stuffing mix is rather juicy before you place it in the vegetables
  • Stuff each vegetable up to approximately three thirds to allow for the rice to expand.
  • Put the sliced tops in place and lay the vegetables in the baking pan, one alongside the other.
  • Wisk the remaining tomato sauce with the olive oil, add salt and pepper and pour the mixture over the vegetables.
  • Finally mix the dried bread crumbs with the remaining sugar and sprinkle over.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 180ºC keeping the food covered for the first half hour.
  • Remove cover and bake for 1h and 15 minutes.

Serve them with Feta cheese, amazing combination!

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