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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tomato: fruit or vegetable?

If you’re a scientist you’d say fruit, after all the tomato is developed from the ovary of the flower but if you’re a cook, you’ll most likely call it a vegetable.
And where do you find it in markets and shops? Among the vegetables of course.
The tomatoes on display at our local market are an absolute feast for the senses –big, small, long and round ones -- all luscious, all juicy and summery. The most popular varieties are the Coeur de boeuf, the thin skinned variety, the Zebra Verte (green striped) the Valentino and Marquise.

Just think, it took 200 years for the humble tomato to be appreciated and accepted into French cuisine. When Spanish explorers first introduced this queen of fruit (or vegetable) it was regarded with much suspicion. Even though they thought tomatoes looked attractive, the people of Provence just couldn’t quite accept eating them. After years of being scrutinized by botanists in the European courts, the humble tomato, shunned for centuries  was finally brought to Paris on July 14, 1790 as part of a celebration of the new republic.

Can you imagine a summer in Provence without tomatoes? It would mean no ratatouille, no stuffed tomatoes, no tomato quiche, no green tomato jam, no tian (a Provençal gratinée with vegetables) the list goes on.
Such a sad thought makes me want to buy lots, but tomatoes are delicate, they must be eaten within a few days and not be hoarded -- unless of course you’re making tomato sauce or coulis.

Another storing tip for your sundrenched vine ripened tomatoes – they must never be put in the fridge – they lose flavor very quickly and become mealy in a couple of days.

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