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Hese are the fruit of the solanum lycopersicum plant and belong to the same family as aubergines and pimentos. They originally came from Central and South America and were grown and eaten by pre-Columbian peoples. They were only brought to Europe after the discoveries. There are records of them arriving in the port of Seville in the 16th century.
The Europeans originally thought they were poisonous and grew them for ornamental purposes. This was supposedly because of their association with nightshade, which was used in witchcraft at the time. It was only in the 19th century that tomatoes were first grown and eaten on a large scale, especially in the Mediterranean countries, enriching the cuisine of Italy, Spain and France.
Green and ripe tomatoes are used in jam making.
Tomatoes can be divided into different subgroups, depending on their shape and purpose:
- Santa Cruz - oblong, traditionally used in cooking and for salads and sauces
- Red khaki and saladette - round, for salads
- Plum - oblong, usually elongated, used mainly for sauces, though also in salads
- Cherry - small and round or oblong mini-tomatoes Used as an appetiser and in salads, it is highly decorative.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene (average of 3.31 mg per 100 gr), A and B complex vitamins, minerals like phosphorus and potassium, and folic acid, calcium and fructose. The riper a tomato is, the higher its concentration of these nutrients.
Tomatoes consist mainly of water and contain around 14 calories per 100 grams. Some studies have proven their positive influence in the treatment of cancer, as lycopene, the pigment that gives them their colour, is considered effective in preventing prostate cancer and strengthening the immune system.