Tomato – Solanum lycopersicum

Roma Tomatoes
Roma Tomatoes

Tomato so juicy
so firm and so round
I can hardly believe
you came from the ground

Filled with vitamins
light and Love
my palate delights again
in my mouth you I shove…..

By Betty O’Neil

Xitomatl (pronounced shi-to-ma-tlh, meaning “plump thing with a navel”) is the  name given it by the Aztec people. They were the ones to introduce it to the Spaniards so long ago. That original tomato was a small, yellow fruit believed to be first domesticated by the Aztec, but having its origins in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

Today the tomato is a common garden addition, even though it was first feared in Europe as poisonous. This long ago belief was due to it being a close family member of some poisonous plants. It is a member of the Solanaceae – Nightshade or Potato family. It has some very famous relatives…potatoes, peppers, eggplants, and tobacco. As a garden plant it plays a role in companion planting being good neighbors with beans, nasturtium, garlic, cabbage, lettuce, leeks, corn, carrots, parsley, radishes, beets, celery, spinach, and chicory. It doesn’t do nearly as well with peas, fennel, rue, or potatoes (being in the same family they attract many of the same pests and diseases). Planting it with basil helps in growth and flavor, while planting it with borage helps repel tomato worms!

The ever popular tomato is used in Italian, Middle Eastern, and Mexican cuisines extensively, but also in many others only on a smaller scale. The can be eat fresh, out of hand, sliced on sandwiches, chopped into salads, and to garnish almost anything. They are made into sauces, added to soups, stew and casseroles…in fact your imagination is your only limit! They are included in such diverse things as pesto, pico de gallo, taco sauce, gazpacho, juice, salsas, quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, burritos, fajitas, tostadas, pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, guacamole, chutney, and relishes.

In medicine the tomato is proving of great benefit. It is high in Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which has been found to be very useful in the treatment of prostate cancer. It has also been proven beneficial in the treatment of high blood pressure and helps protect the skin from harmful UV rays which will cause skin cancers. Because they are also high in Vitamin C, Potassium and citric acid they make a good addition to a healthy diet for maintaining overall health, aiding digestion, eliminating environmental toxins, and rehydration after exercise.

Knowing all these benefits from food to medicine it is strange to think that it took 150 years after European discovery for them to begin using the tomato on a regular basis. Even then the tomato was not considered fit for anything but sauce!

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