The tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family, as with close relatives chili peppers, potato, and eggplant.
The tomato is native to Central, South, and southern North America from Mexico to Peru. It is a perennial, often grown outdoors in temperate climates as an annual. The word tomato derives from a word in the Nahuatl language, tomatl. The specific name, lycopersicum, means "wolf-peach".
They are rich in vitamins A and C and a good source of calcium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Tomatoes oxidise (react with oxygen) quickly. The Vitamin C content can quickly be destroyed, therefore, when the tomato is cut and exposed to air for long periods of time.
When it comes to their phytonutrients and antioxidants, tomatoes are a treasure of riches, specifically vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese and Vitamin E. The antioxidant, lycopene, found in tomatoes is also of great significance and is interestingly found in greater amounts in cooked tomato rather than raw tomatoes.
Tomatoes come in an array of colours, all of them offering vast amounts of nutritional benefits. Choose those tomatoes with vibrant and rich colours. Tomatoes should be well shaped and smooth skinned with no wrinkles, cracks, bruises, or soft spots. Ripe tomatoes will yield to slight pressure and will have a noticeably sweet fragrance.
Store ripe tomatoes in the refrigerator. If the tomatoes are unripe, store them at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. In order to hasten the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with a banana or apple since the ethylene gas that these fruits emit will help speed up the tomato's maturation.
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