It’s an age-old conundrum – is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Quite frankly, who cares? Fruit or vegetable, they taste great, especially if they’re British!
Today (20th May) marks the start of British Tomato Week which heralds the beginning of the main British tomato season, which runs from May to November. This year to make it easier to identify which tomatoes are home-grown, special ‘Tomato Week’ stickers will be appearing on packs sold at major retailers.
Why buy British tomatoes?
Quite apart from a sense of patriotism and their delicious flavours, there is another very good reason to buy British. British nurseries grow tomatoes only for the UK market. This means that there is less distance to travel from nursery to shop, so the fruits (or veg!) can stay on the vine for longer. The longer the tomatoes stay on the plant, the more flavoursome they become.
Speaking of flavour, according to the British Tomato Growers’ Association, storing tomatoes in the fridge is a big no-no as it prevents further ripening. To enjoy tomatoes at their best they should always be stored at room temperature.
The UK tomato industry
Did you know that about 500 acres of glasshouses are used to produce British tomatoes and roughly 2500 people are employed in the industry? There are also an estimated 2 million workers who are unpaid – bumble bees!
In Britain we consume 75,000 metric tonnes of British tomatoes per annum. In fact the average person in the UK eats 8.5 Kg of tomatoes every year. This sounds like quite a lot, but we are way behind many of our European counterparts.
Health benefits of tomatoes
Tomatoes are a great source of vitamins A, C and E. They also contain beta carotene, folate, calcium and potassium and are a good source of lycopene, an antioxidant that may protect against prostate cancers. The riper and redder the tomato, the higher the content of lypocene.
Anyone who’s had one too many on a night out will know that tomatoes make a very good hangover cure!
Tomato face pack anyone? Tomato pulp is apparently also very good for the skin. It refreshes, tones and aids circulation. Mix it with natural yogurt and apply to the face for 10-15 minutes before rinsing off.
Classic Tomato Soup recipe
Next time you fancy a bowl of tomato soup, instead of reaching for a tin or carton, why not try this delicious recipe?
30ml olive oil
900g British Classic Tomatoes, halved
1 small potato, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
Lightly oil a roasting tin. Arrange the tomatoes cut side uppermost in the roasting tin. Add the garlic cloves. Season and drizzle over the remaining oil. Roast in the oven at 190°C (375°C, gas mark 5) for 30 minutes.
Boil the potato in the water until tender. Do not drain the water.
Skin the tomatoes and garlic and put the tomato pulp and garlic into a food processor or blender with the cooked potato and potato stock. Blend until smooth.
Transfer into a saucepan. Add a little extra vegetable stock or water if the soup is too thick. Stir in the sugar.
How to make your own Sundried Tomatoes
Sprinkle equal amounts of caster sugar and salt over halved tomatoes. Place them cut side up on a baking sheet and cook in the oven on a low heat for 2 ½ hours until most of the liquid has dried out.
For more information about British Tomatoes visit www.britishtomatoes.co.uk