It's The Sea­son … OF LOVE (APPLES, THAT IS)

ZOOMER Magazine - - FOOD - BY VI­VIAN VAS­SOS

“The raw tomato, de­voured in the gar­den when freshly picked, is a horn of abun­dance of sim­ple sen­sa­tions, a ra­di­at­ing rush in one’s mouth that brings with it ev­ery plea­sure … a tomato, an ad­ven­ture” —MURIEL BARBERY, FRENCH NOV­EL­IST AND PHILOSO­PHER (1969-)

“A tomato may be a fruit, but it is a sin­gu­lar fruit. A savoury fruit. A fruit that has am­bi­tions far be­yond the am­bi­tions of other fruits” —EMILY LOCK­HART, AMER­I­CAN AU­THOR (1967-)

You say tomato, and I say tom­ahto. Or pomme d’amour, as the French might say, be­cause of the sup­posed aphro­disiac qual­i­ties of the fruit’s seeds. Or pomo d’oro, as the Ital­ians might say, ref­er­enc­ing a spe­cific tomato that is golden yel­low at its peak of ripeness. But don’t call the whole thing off. At this time of year, the love apples are on the vine, the golden apples ready to be plucked and rel­ished.

Our bod­ies, too, love these glossy red – or yel­low, or or­ange or even pur­ple – orbs, as it’s an al­most per­fect fruit. Raw, an av­er­age-sized tomato clocks in at about 32 calo­ries and is a source of po­tas­sium, phos­pho­rus and vi­ta­mins A and C, as well as cal­cium. It’s also loaded with nu­tri­ents and an­tiox­i­dants, such as folic acid, choline, al­pha-lipoic acid and beta carotene. Pop a cou­ple of cherry toma­toes, and they’re like lit­tle vi­ta­min bombs for your body with their con­cen­trated amounts of beta carotene.

But the real su­per­pow­ers show up when we add a lit­tle fire. Turn up the heat and, un­like most other fruits or veg­gies, these ba­bies pump up the avail­abil­ity of key nu­tri­ents, ly­copene, lutein and zeax­an­thin. It all adds up to one hel­luva can­cer-, heart disease- and in­flam­ma­tion-fighter, with a zesty side dish of di­a­betes fighter and eye-health booster all wrapped up into one tidy love ap­ple.

What’s not to love? When we think of toma­toes, many of us think of the Mediter­ranean. And how can we not help it? From Greek vil­lage sal­ads, all rough cut and chunky un­der golden-green splashes of ex­tra vir­gin olive oil to rich oregano- and gar­lic-spiked Ital­ian sauces, where the pomo d’oro min­gles with a few of its favourite part­ners, pizza and pasta.

But its ori­gin story is a world away. Born and bred in the Amer­i­cas, it has been doc­u­mented as far back as the Aztecs, who ate the fruit as part of their diet. The Span­ish ar­rived, dis­cov­ered the plant that they then named to­mate and took the seeds back to Spain to be­gin cul­ti­va­tion. It gained pop­u­lar­ity there, as well as in France, but it took a bit of con­vinc­ing be­fore the rest of Europe

would dig in. Part of the night­shade fam­ily (pota­toes, egg­plant and bell pep­pers are all its cousins), the fruit were once thought by the Bri­tish to be poi­sonous – red sig­nalled dan­ger in their minds – and, rather, was used in English gar­dens as an or­na­men­tal plant.

A lit­tle trivia for our res­i­dent green thumbs: hor­ti­cul­tur­ists and gar­den­ers alike worked with the plant to de­velop it as the juicy fruit we know to­day. It took an Amer­i­can botanist, Alexan­der Liv­ingston, to re­ally bring the tomato back home to the Amer­i­cas and into the main­stream as a com­mer­cial crop in the 1870s. His breed, which he named Paragon, is con­sid­ered the mother of mod­ern tomato plants; it still grows to­day and is sought af­ter for its sweet flavour. It’s also an heir­loom va­ri­ety, mean­ing it has lit­tle changed from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. Its off­spring plants are now among the most pop­u­lar of all fruits the world over and, most likely, its DNA is in the tomato plants in your gar­den.

But our mind wan­ders back to the Mediter­ranean.

SUGO AL PO­MODORO (Ba­sic Tomato Sauce)

From spaghetti to pizza, many beloved Ital­ian dishes call for a ba­sic tomato sauce. Try this es­sen­tial recipe, cour­tesy of Eataly, the allth­ings Ital­ian food em­po­rium that’s now in Canada, and you will al­ways be pre­pared to wow your guests (or your­self!).

4 tbsp ex­tra vir­gin olive oil, plus more for fin­ish­ing

The olive groves, the vine­yards, the smell and taste of a tomato, fresh off the vine, still warm from the sun. A bot­tle of sparkling Ital­ian Pros­ecco or Span­ish Cava chill­ing. We may not be think­ing of trav­el­ling there just yet but we can dream. Let the tomato trans­port you with a few ways to bring the health and flavours of the Mediter­ranean diet home. Buon ap­petito!

“If you’re buy­ing toma­toes, pick them up and smell them. They should have a lovely per­fume. They need to be kept at 50 de­grees F or above, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son, be­cause that’s when they de­velop their flavour” –JU­LIA CHILD, AU­THOR AND COOK­ING TEACHER (1912-2004)

2 cloves gar­lic

1 pinch peper­on­cino

1 can (496 ml) whole peeled Mutti Ital­ian toma­toes, crushed by hand Salt

3 or 4 sprigs basil

■ In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Us­ing the heel of your hand, crush the gar­lic cloves; add to the oil and cook un­til golden brown. Add peper­on­cino, and crushed toma­toes to the saucepan; sea­son with salt to taste. Sim­mer over low heat for about 20 min­utes or un­til it be­gins to thicken.

■ Re­move from heat; add basil and let sauce cool. Re­move basil once sauce has cooled com­pletely. It should be a rich red colour. If it is brick red, it is too thick and needs to be thinned with wa­ter.

■ In­cor­po­rate sauce into your fa­vorite dish, and en­joy. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

“A world with­out toma­toes is like a string quar­tet with­out vi­o­lins” —LAU­RIE COLWIN, JAMES BEARD AWARD-WIN­NING GOURMET MAGAZINE COLUMNIST (1944-1992)

It takes a vil­lage – salad. Sim­plic­ity strikes the per­fect bal­ance in this Greek ho­ri­atiki salad. Op­po­site: saucy of­fer­ings, just right for can­ning sea­son

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