The Humble Tomato

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The Humble Tomato

Ingredient of the week:  The Tomato

All about tomatoes

  • Tomatoes are the fruit of a plant which is eaten in almost all climates and is an essential part of many cuisines.  There are a multitude of varieties and colours.
  • Tomatoes are especially loved in the Mediterranean and some classic dishes can’t be made without them – think of Gazpacho, Salsa di Pomodoro and Tomates Farcies Provincale.
  • Fresh or canned – both are a great ingredient.


  • Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant vitamin which protects against cell damage. Eating tomatoes when eating other plant sources of iron, (such as spinach, broccoli, lentils, and tofu), helps the body absorb iron better.
  • Lycopene is another constituent of tomatoes which gives the colour to tomatoes, and other red fruits such as grapefruit, papaya and watermelon. Lycopene belongs to a group of plant chemicals called carotenoids, and health benefits have been attributed to lycopene such as a reduction in the risk of some cancers or heart disease. However, it hasn’t been possible to prove that it is the lycopene itself which reduces the risk, or just eating tomatoes. What is known however is that having more fruit and vegetables in the diet overall is beneficial.
  • Additionally, we know that heating tomatoes increases the amount of lycopene which the body can use – that is its bioavailability increases. Tomatoes also contain lutein, another plant pigment which is known to be associated (but not proven) with improved eye health in older people.

How can you use tomatoes?

  • Bruschetta – chopped tomatoes on bread/ toast couldn’t be simpler. https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/bread-recipes/bruschetta-with-tomato-and-basil/
  • Make your own tomato soup. Check out the centre newsletters for a recipe for gazpacho.
  • Leave a bowl on the side and just nibble when you fancy a sweet treat

Do you have a favourite tomato recipe? Share your ideas for using tomatoes in the Centre’s Members Group on Facebook.

Top tips

  • Tomatoes are best eaten ripe and at room temperature, so keep them on your windowsill, not fridge.
  • Try growing your own tomatoes. These are one of the easiest plants to have a go at growing.
  • Add balsamic vinegar to tomatoes – makes a scrummy simple salad.

Produced by Claire Fenlon and Fiona Wilcock 2020