The tomato is a savory, typically red, edible fruit, as well as the plant (Solanum lycopersicum) which bears it. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler climates. The tomato is native to South America. Genetic evidence shows the progenitors of tomatoes were herbaceous green plants with small green fruit and a center of diversity in the highlands of Peru. One species, Solanum lycopersicum, was transported to Mexico where it was grown and consumed by Mesoamerican civilizations. The exact date of domestication is not known.
The first domesticated tomato may have been a little yellow fruit, similar in size to a cherry tomato, grown by the Aztecs of Central Mexico. Aztec writings mention tomatoes were prepared with peppers, corn and salt. The word tomato comes from the Aztec tomatl, literally “the swelling fruit”.
Aztecs and other peoples in the region used the fruit in their cooking; it was cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas by 500 BC. It is thought that the Pueblo people believed that those who witnessed the ingestion of tomato seeds were blessed with powers of divination. The large, lumpy tomato, a mutation from a smoother, smaller fruit, originated in Mesoamerica and may be the direct ancestor of some modern cultivated tomatoes. Nine species of tomato make up the genus Lycopersicon, and seven are inedible, small hard fruits, according to New York biologist and tomato expert Carolyn J. Male.
In 1519, the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes found the Aztec civilization in South America, and discovered tomatoes being grown in the emperor’s garden (his name was Montezuma). He returned to Europe with seeds where the tomato was first grown as ornamental curiosities, but not eaten. Europeans first guessed that the plant was poisonous. As early as the 1550s, the Spanish began eating tomatoes, cultivating them and distributing them to colonies.English colonists brought tomato plants to North America, apparently with a medical application for pustules in mind. In 1781, Thomas Jefferson brought tomatoes to his Virginia plantation and experimented with tomato sauce on his french fries. The deadly aspect of the tomato is based half in superstition, half in fact. It is said that tomatoes are poisonous. The leaves can be deadly, and before a tomato ripens, it contains a bitter alkaloid known as Solanine. In concentrated doses, it is fatal to humans.
The tantalizing tomato is one of the most widely used foods. It is used in every form; fresh, roasted, cooked, smoked, sun dried, turned into sauces, juice, soup, ketchup and used widely in seasonings. So combat the long hot summer with a super easy and delish salad called gazpacho, the coolest thing that ever happened to a tomato. Gazpacho is a liquid salad from the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, made of ripe tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, garlic, and bread moistened with water that is blended with olive oil, vinegar, and ice water and served cold. It is Andalusia’s best known dish and probably originated as a soup during the time when Spain was part of the Islamic world in the Middle Ages, a soup the Spanish call an ajo blanco. Gazpacho comes in a variety of different intraregional versions, some of which contain almonds, and no tomatoes and peppers (tomatoes and peppers came to gazpacho after Columbus).
1/2 avocado, peeled
1 cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
2 orange bell peppers, cored and seeded
4 large heirloom tomatoes
1/2 red onion
2 jalapeno, split in half and seeded
2 garlic cloves, minced
24 ounces tomato juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup good olive oil
kosher salt, to taste
freshly cracked black pepper
Roughly chop the each of the vegetables. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped, do not over process! After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl . Add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper into the food processor and give it a couple whirls to mix. Pour over the chopped vegetables and mix. Chill. Serve.
Here’s another delish and great recipe . This is the basic Pico de Gallo recipe but you can adjust the chili level if you want to. Pico de Gallo can be compared to a salsa but it is less liquid, which means you can eat it with a toothpick or your fingers!!! Chimichurri – aka Pico de Gallo can be used in much the same way as Mexican salsas or Indian chutneys, it can also be used as a main ingredient in dishes such as carne asada (grilled steak) or as a salad, a light meal on a bed of lettuce with fresh crisp home made tortilla chips or place it along side your favorite grilled chicken or fish.
4 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped coarsely ( I like vine-ripened tomatoes)
1 med-large onion, chopped coarsely
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped finely
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lime
Core the tomatoes and cut them in half. Gentle squeeze out most of the seeds and cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch (no longer) dice. Toss the diced tomatoes onions cilantro and jalapeno together in a mixing bowl. Add the salt and lime juice then stir in oil if using. Let sit for a few minutes. The salsa can be made and kept at room temperature for up to 4 hours no longer before serving. Stir and taste again before serving.