Drink Magazine

Ingredient Spotlight: Tomato

By Lucasryden @saborkitchen

Tomatoes are the fossil fuel of Latin cuisine.  They grease the axles of our favorite pastas and inject flavor and body into hundreds of Mexican salsas, from classic pico de gallo to obscurely deep mole rojo.  Without them our food would be dry at best and extremely bland at worst.  Tomatoes are crucial, but what exactly are they?



The tomato is a member of the nightshade family, a group of plants that grow to 1–3 meters (3–10 ft) in height with weak stems that often sprawl over the ground and into other plants.  It is also a fruit, not a vegetable, as it is produced in the ovary of the plant’s flower and retains its seeds after ripening.  It was born in Mesoamerica and first cultivated by the Aztecs around 500 BC.  As with most foods, the natives believed tomatoes had magical properties that endowed their predators with divine power.  This is probably not true.  But I suppose it gave them something to talk about during their free time – which was, understandably, extensive.

Tomatoes were spread to Europe and the rest of the world by the Spanish conquistadors that “explored” Latin America during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  In exchange for their knowledge and resources, the indigenous peoples were rewarded with various diseases and forms of abuse, ranging from rape and pillage to outright genocide.  But I digress.  Back to tomatoes.


It turns out the indigenous peoples of Mexico weren’t totally wrong about the divine nature of their tomatoes.  They are one of the most nutritionally dense plants fit for human consumption, with outstanding levels of antioxidants and lycopene.  Both of these contribute to improved heart health and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.  They also contribute to a lot of old people in Italy whose bodies don’t want to die.

According to World’s Healthiest Foods, 1 cup of raw tomatoes contains 38% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C, 30% of your Vitamin A, and a bunch of other big words (flavones, flavonols, carotenoids, etc.) that your body will thank you for, despite your lack of understanding why.


There are literally thousands of uses for tomatoes.  Just read the ingredients label of any respective pasta sauce or chunky salsa.  But besides the obvious, tomatoes are a highly versatile ingredient that can be made delicious in both raw and cooked forms.  Slice up an heirloom variety and toss it in a salad for vibrant color and sweetness, or blend some cluster tomatoes with other fruits and vegetables for a simple salsa or gazpacho.  The important thing is that you eat them.  Lots of them.


so.cal ceviche
pesto parmesan quesadilla
heirloom tomato salad
paella mixta
seared ahi tacos
mango avocado salsa
chipotle peach salsa
guajillo barbecue sauce

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