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Tomato

A little history…

Whether it’s red, pink, yellow or orange…big or small…sweet or acidic, the versatile tomato is one of the most widely eaten vegetables in Quebec. This adaptable ingredient is used in many different recipes and is a reliable ally for improvising meals. Thanks to greenhouse cultivation, fresh Quebec tomatoes are available all year long. According to Statistics Canada, the production of greenhouse tomatoes has steadily increased for a decade to make it the biggest greenhouse crop in Canada.

Nutrients and benefits

Besides providing a significant quantity of Vitamin C, tomatoes also contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant recognized for reducing the risk of prostate cancer. Lycopene is best absorbed by the body when the tomato is cooked, however, and when combined with fat (such as oil). Tomato sauce and paste are a good way to help protect men from this type of cancer. Epidemiological studies have also shown a link between lycopene and the prevention of other types of cancer (like lung and stomach cancer for example) and cardiovascular diseases. In fact, lycopene may also have anticholesteremic properties. Finally, since heat unfortunately destroys Vitamin C, remember that tomatoes should be eaten in many different forms, both raw and cooked!

Serving and nutrition facts

1 raw tomato, average (123 g) = 1 serving of vegetables

Nutrients % Daily requirement*

Energy: 20 calories

Lipids: 0 g

0%

Carbohydrates: 5 g

2%

Fibre: 2 g

8%

Protein: 1 g

Vitamin C                               25%

Potassium                                8%

Different varieties

Nicknamed “love apples” by the French and “apples of paradise” by the Germans, tomatoes exist in thousands of varieties, but only a few hundred are cultivated now. Here are a few:

1. CHERRY TOMATOES

A little bigger than a cherry, this variety comes in red, orange and yellow. Deliciously sweet and tasty, these little pearls can be eaten like candies at snack time and they provide a perfect garnish for salads and kebabs. Even though they can be found in stores all year long, those grown in Quebec are only available from mid-July to late October.

2. FIELD TOMATOES

Queen of the summer, the field tomato is in market stalls from mid-August to late October. Very juicy and slightly acidic, it is excellent in salads or served as an appetizer, lightly drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

3. ITALIAN TOMATOES (like Romanella, San Marzano, for example)

These beautiful oval tomatoes are available later in the season. In Quebec, they’re harvested from mid-July to late October. Firmer and less juicy than their cousins, they are perfect for making flavourful pasta sauces.

4. BEEFSTEAK TOMATOES

This ancient variety was recently rediscovered. Its peculiar ribbed shape is easy to recognize. Inside, there are empty cavities, which makes it an excellent tomato to stuff.

5. PINK TOMATOES (like Pink Girl)

Once very popular, pink tomatoes are the perfect “table” tomato. Some people think this average size tomato is sweeter and juicier than the red tomato. Take the time to discover or rediscover it!

6. YELLOW AND ORANGE TOMATOES

These average-sized tomatoes appeal through their sweet taste and their beautiful, appetizing colours. Ideal to give a little boost to green salad or to create colourful salsas.

7. GREENHOUSE TOMATOES

Greenhouse tomatoes are always available and are surprising for their exceptional taste and quality. Technology controls several factors – such as lighting and sugar levels – to create consistent, flavourful products all year round. Greenhouses also provide vine-ripened tomatoes which are very tasty because they can be picked when they are riper. Clusters of tomatoes still attached to the vine can also be stored longer.

Purchase and storage

Choose plump tomatoes, with smooth skin and no wrinkles or spots. Since tomatoes continue to ripen after they’re picked, purchase tomatoes at different stages of ripeness if you don’t expect to eat them all at once! Keep your tomatoes at room temperature instead of in the fridge, because the cold changes their flavour and texture. They should last for about a week on the counter.

Did you know?

  • The tomato, which we use as a vegetable, is a fruit, botanically speaking! 
  • The peel contains more Vitamin C and lycopene (antioxidant) than all the rest of the tomato.
  • Originally from South America, tomatoes were introduced to Spain by colonists in the 16th century. Believed to be poisonous, they were only added to European cuisine in the 18th century. North Americans, meanwhile, were wary of the fruit and boiled it for three hours before eating, to rid it of toxic substances. This belief lasted until the beginning of the 20th century.

Chef’s tips

  • To help tomatoes ripen faster, put them in a sealed paper bag for one to three days.
  • The versatile tomato goes well with fine herbs (like basil, oregano, thyme, cumin and parsley) and cheese (bocconcini, feta and mozzarella for example).
  • Overripe tomatoes? No problem! Tossed into a soup, sauce or gazpacho, they’ll be completely incognito!
  • To peel tomatoes with ease: make an X at the base of the tomato with a sharp knife, plunge it into boiling water for 30 seconds and cool quickly under cold water. Slip the skin off in the wink of an eye!

 

 * Derived from the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)
Reference: Canadian Nutrient File – Health Canada


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