Italian Tomatoes

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When you talk about Italian cuisine, one of the vegetables you automatically think about are Italian Tomatoes. This must be because this vegetable-fruit is quite prominent in many traditional dishes, especially in pasta and pizza dishes. In fact, these delectable red fruits are so entangled in Italian cuisine that people often automatically associate them to each other. And you can’t exactly blame people for entertaining the notion because tomatoes are quite a popular ingredient in Italian cuisine. But do you know that tomatoes were not even native to Italy, to begin with?

A Bit of Tomato History

The tomato plant did not arrive to Italy until about halfway through the 1500s. The ones who brought it were Spanish explorers. They got their hands on tomatoes in Peru and brought it to the Italian peninsula, particularly Tuscany. Back then, tomatoes were called” tomatl.”  In fact, the first recorded mention of tomatoes in Italian cooking dates back to the year 1548. It was assumed to be related to the eggplant, which was why it was called “pomodoro.” The Italian word “Pomodoro” means “golden apple” in English, a fact which confused some people about the tomato’s true origins. However, the misnomer may have some bit of foundation in truth. After all, Italian tomatoes and eggplants actually belong in the same family, which is nightshade, otherwise known as Solanaceae.

Now when tomatoes were first brought to Italy, it wasn’t for culinary purposes at all. They were mainly used for aesthetics, because tomatoes were simply beautiful to look at. Luckily, a couple or so of centuries later, somebody in Italy got the idea to grow and use for cooking. And tomatoes have been dominating Italian cuisine ever since.

So is Tomato a Fruit or a Vegetable

There have been many verbal battles, complete with all the metaphorical screaming and kicking, over this issue. But what you have to keep in mind is that the two classifications are not exactly exclusive. The idea that just because one is a fruit, it can’t be called a vegetable anymore is actually incorrect.

You see, any plant that is eaten as food or as part of a meal, especially something that’s cooked, is considered a vegetable. So that’s definitely a check for tomatoes. As for fruit, its definition is any product of a seed-bearing plant that grows around the ovary, which may be edible or not.  And that’s also a check for tomatoes. So you see, a vegetable is defined by how a plant is used in the culinary world while the other one is defined by what it actually is in the scientific and botanical world. Hence, the tomato is both a fruit and a vegetable. Capisce?

The Tomato of Many Ways

Today, there are so many types of Italian tomatoes. And there are actually more than seven thousand varieties of tomatoes around the world. And they all come in various shapes and sizes. Also, even though most tomatoes are red in color, this fruit actually comes in various shades that range from green to yellow to red.

But more than its different varieties is the fact that, in the culinary world, the tomato can be cooked and consumed in so many ways. You can put sauté, grill, or bake it. You can even eat it raw, like a fruit. It can also be dried under the sun, blended and turned into tomato sauce or paste. Or you can squeeze it for its juice and use it in cocktails. An example of this is the popular drink Bloody Mary. It is made with tomato juice, hot pepper sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and black pepper, ice cubes, and vodka.

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