‘Elixir of Life’ is a concept that was first established in Greek mythology in order to explain the immortality and superpowers of the Gods. It is believed that the Gods were accustomed to a diet different to that of humans and that if a human was to consume this ‘Elixir of Life’, he/she would also achieve immortality.
The word tomato finds its origins in the Spanish word ‘tomate’ which in turn comes from the Aztec word tomatl, meaning the swelling fruit. The etymology of tomato is interesting because it not only tells us the first cultivators of the plant but also its botanical classification.
Have you heard of the phrase- “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”?
Solanum Lycopersicum (the scientific name for the succulent red vegetable) has always been a bone of contention between scientists and cooks. While scientists classify it as a fruit since it is a ripened ovary and contains seeds, cooks believe it to be a vegetable since it is not as sweet as other fruits and because of the wide range of possibilities, it provides in cooking. This argument between the fields to call tomato their own is proof of the fact that tomatoes are incredibly important to our species.
Tomatoes, rich in minerals, vitamins and fibre are a melting pot of all things good. Their chemical composition consists of two very important chemicals: beta carotene and lycopene. Lycopene helps in reducing the probability of cancer, especially that of prostate, colorectal and stomach. It also releases anti-ageing free radicals which further enhance its ‘elixir of life’ properties. Cooking tomatoes in olive oil helps the body to absorb lycopene better, a widely used principle in Western cooking.
Beta carotene, on the other hand, is converted into Vitamin A which leads to the development of healthy skin, hair and aids in vision. Naringenin, a compound found in its red skin is known to decrease inflammation and is very beneficial for the treatment of the same.
The other benefits include the presence of high amounts of potassium and Vitamin B which work well together for a healthy heart. They are effective in reducing cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure. Another great combination present is that of calcium and Vitamin K as they help in the strengthening of bones and performing minor repairs of bone tissues. Tomatoes also have a great amount of Vitamin A and Vitamin C and have an abundance of antioxidants that neutralize harmful free radicals in the blood.
If consumed without seeds, tomatoes are extremely good for our kidneys as they help reduce the risk of kidneys. They also contain coumaric and chlorogenic acid that work to protect the body and residing organs from cigarette smoke and cancer.
An integral part of many global cuisines, especially the Mediterranean region, tomatoes provide the necessary juices and indulge the taste buds in a fascinating manner. Native to regions of Mexico, they have now spread globally due to the ease of growing and cultivating them. Two important regions that facilitated the spread of this elixir over the globe are Spain and Central America. Of course, none of us stretch our imagination and think about the origins of tomato, or how it landed onto our plates, why it is cooked a certain way or why it is even consumed in the first place.
Some food for thought the next time the savoury vegetable-fruit touches your plate!
Kreator: Trisha Welde