Little domestic glasshouses in your back garden really pay off at this time of year. The delicious fresh tomatoes and cucumbers that are collected from my glasshouse every day make my kitchen feel like an idyllic country living scene. Once you have tasted real tomatoes bursting with flavour, you can never go back to bought supermarket tomatoes. The difference in taste (and nutrition) is astounding.
Although many consider tomatoes a vegetable, it is actually a fruit. It originated in Central and South America and was brought to Europe by Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century. In England it was referred to as the “love apple” and was offered by romancers as a token of affection. This was nothing to do with its passionate colour or suggestive shape, but rather a language misunderstanding! In Italy, tomatoes were called pomi dei mori or ‘apples of the moors’. When said out loud in France it sounded like pomme d’amour – which in English is ‘love apple’!
Tomatoes contain lycopene (the pigment which turns tomatoes red), which is a known anti-carcinogen, particularly for lung, stomach and prostate cancers. A study showed that eating 10 or more tomato based foods per week decreased the risk of developing prostate cancer by 35% compared to those who ate less than 1.5 weekly servings. Lycopene nay also benefit the heart and boost the immune system. Tomatoes are also rich in potassium, vitamin C, E and A, antioxidants.
Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family of vegetables - they contain solanine, a substance that in high levels can cause a toxic reaction in the body. It inhibits collagen repair in joints and creates inflammation. It can also remove calcium from bones and then deposits it in soft tissue areas. This may be a contributory factor in the development of kidney stones, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. If you suffer from one of these conditions it may be beneficial to avoid eating too many tomatoes.