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By Tarvin Webteam - 31st May 2016 6:00am
In May we had "British Tomato Week! Made a nice change from the last few interminable Brexit weeks.
Don't waste tomatoes throwing them at your least favourite campaigner though they are too good to waste.
I have always grown tomatoes as I am lucky enough to have a greenhouse. I think this far up the UK you can struggle to grow them outdoors unless you have a very sheltered part of your back garden.
As part of the Editorial team you always end up delving into websites to find out more and the following interested me.
The first question I had to get an answer to was "is a tomato a fruit or vegetable?"
I gather this has triggered a surprising amount of debate. This has not been entirely academic and in 1887 made its way to the US Supreme Court in Nix v Hedden. The real issues were trade and commercial interests. If tomatoes were deemed to be vegetables, they could be taxed when imported, under the Tariff Act of 1883, thus providing protection for American tomato growers. The Court's botanical knowledge was sound. Tomatoes are specialised reproductive structures that contain seeds, in other words, they are fruits. It chose pragmatism over botanical truth, however, and ruled in favour of American farmers. How American!
Botanically speaking tomatoes are the fruit of the vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans and peas. But in common language, all these are vegetables, which are grown in kitchen gardens and are usually served at dinner in, with or after the soup, fish or meats and not, like fruits generally, as dessert.
A pub quiz question next (unlikely to be in the next Tarvin Village quiz though).
The largest UK tomato glasshouse covers 26.5 acres, but is currently being extended to 44.5 acres. That's the size of 25 international football pitches.
The most important question no doubt is:-
"What are the nutritional benefits of tomatoes?"
Tomatoes are a good source of Vitamins A, C and E, the natural plant pigments known as carotenoids (both beta-carotene and lycopene) and flavonoids. Flavonoids are also found in red wine and tea.- A common source for me!
Tomatoes contain minerals such as potassium, which has been linked to lowering blood pressure and calcium, which is vital for healthy bones and teeth.
What is the link between tomatoes and its believed effect on cancer prevention?
The vitamins and antioxidants found in tomatoes are thought to combat the harmful effects of free radicals (highly reactive molecules) that cause cell damage — a precursor of conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Although their role as antioxidants is the most popular explanation for the benefit of tomatoes and their constituents in the diet, not all scientists agree with this theory and some believe that other mechanisms are involved. Whatever this means, there seems no disagreement about the potential benefits.
Recent research has shown that the pigment lycopene, the stuff that makes most ripe tomatoes red, may be particularly active in protecting the body against heart disease and some forms of cancer. Lycopene is more readily absorbed into the bloodstream when tomatoes are cooked with certain oils, such as olive oil. Processed tomatoes may contain high levels of lycopene but also additives such as salt (up to a hundred times more than in fresh tomatoes!) and sugar.
Research has shown that ripe, British tomatoes have a considerably higher lycopene content than was thought to be the case (up to three times the usually quoted figures), especially when compared with imported, long-life types, which are low in lycopene.
The ideal solution is to eat fresh British tomatoes, both raw and cooked — There are lots of delicious recipes for both.
Do you lose nutrients by cooking tomatoes?
There is a certain amount lost through cooking, vitamin C and flavonoids in particular. Cooking may increase the concentration of other nutrients, such as lycopene. The best option is to eat plenty of British tomatoes, both raw and cooked-best of both worlds.
There is a website called yardday which is a website dedicated to out door care which has further useful information on tomatoes amongst many other topics