Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What did the Tomato say to the Ketchup?

"You're too saucy!" is the answer to that! Jokes apart, I hope you enjoy this tomato salsa of a post.

My mother always pottered around in 'the garden' - some straggly plants in large old concrete pots. Pots and plants and trees that mostly already formed part of the house in which we lived. I suspect that it was then that she sometimes grew tomatoes. 


So it was natural that as soon as I had a little space, I began to grow things. And I am convinced there were tomatoes! In any case, I seem to have a habit and belief about tomatoes - that if you merely throw a rotten one on some soil you will soon have tomatoes growing. 

Now, before you get all excited, let me tell you one thing: my gardening has a long and complicated philosophy behind it and it will just bore you to death, upset you no end and we will simply end up not seeing eye to eye.

Masanobu Fukuoka throwing the first seedball at the workshop at Navdanya in October, 2002 - naturalfarming.org , via Wikimedia Commons 

My gardening is part of my effort at meditative living. In all I do there should be a gentle passion and involvement but it should never cross some boundaries. In other words, I am not gardening to produce tomatoes or potatoes or to feed the world's poor or myself or any other such aim and ambition.  I empty myself as far as possible when in the garden and have joy. If tomatoes result well and good. If not also I must be equally delighted. The garden is for the sky, for the birds, for the time between me and the universe. In these moments I get reinvigorated. 
Fukuoka starts tomatoes and eggplants in a seedbed and transplants them. He soaks and pelletizes the difficult-to-germinate seeds of carrots and spinach. Once they are established, however, he does not pamper them: tomatoes run free along the ground, and cucumbers, melons, and squash stretch out over sticks of bamboo and discarded tree branches. Fukuoka found that vegetables grow heartily in a semiwild state.

In any case, growing tomatoes is mostly that easy. But they are messy, straggly plants. For what it's worth it can be a therapeutic and rewarding hobby as you will find many websites and videos to tell you how to go about it. And anything that you do that takes you away from ambition, from the rat race, the mad and pointless race for excellence will be beneficial to you and your surroundings. 

Now, where's that tomato?

I like tomatoes. I love them best uncooked, firm yet ripe, sliced, between buttered slices of bread. I've even had them with green chutney instead of butter and they still rocked.

I even recall a joy in sprinkling sugar on such tomatoes. It's a treat I doubt I'll try now but I can assure you it is worth a try. 

Over the years I found that there are two camps - those who love tomatoes and those who don't. My mother always claimed that the doctors had told her to avoid red coloured things such as beets and tomatoes. I've heard them accused of causing acidity, too. Perhaps this is because they came into the Indian cuisine late? And are therefore considered an evil introduced from elsewhere. 

Wikipedia tells me the tomato came from South America. The Spanish then took it to Europe whence it percolated to the colonies in the sixteenth century.  Quora says that it was then that the Portuguese brought it here.

Interestingly, the anti-tomato brigade was in Europe too: 
Why the Tomato Was Feared in Europe for More Than 200 Years
In the late 1700s, a large percentage of Europeans feared the tomato.

A nickname for the fruit was the “poison apple” because it was thought that aristocrats got sick and died after eating them, but the truth of the matter was that wealthy Europeans used pewter plates, which were high in lead content. Because tomatoes are so high in acidity, when placed on this particular tableware, the fruit would leach lead from the plate, resulting in many deaths from lead poisoning. No one made this connection between plate and poison at the time; the tomato was picked as the culprit.

In spite of that, India has the most amazing variety of tomato based dishes including those that have tomato as main ingredient.

Now, it all depends on your stand in this regard but if you have no objection to them except some reasonable ones such as that the peel is loathsome in cooked dishes, then let us proceed to explore some ways in which tomatoes feature in our lives. 
   
We begin with an appetiser or snack as I shall call it simply because the green tomato comes first:

  
Alas, tomatoes turn into bad guys very quickly! The only two other films that I found are:

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes


And:
Return of the Killer Tomatoes

At least, in terms of symbolism, the tomato has a somewhat better standing: 

Dubbed the “love apple” in early European times, this fruit was deemed an aphrodisiac because of its numerous seeds. It was also the perfect Aztec side dish for a cannibalistic meat course.

Of course, tomatoes feature in books and not just recipe books:

Read for free on Kindle Unlimited


Free on Kindle Unlimited

You can preview the book by clicking on the Preview link in the Amazon covers

The tomato has also been used for beauty and health and there is enough information about it commonly available.

From tomato juice, with or without Vodka, to tomato pickles, Indians have been busy using this fruit/vegetable in all kinds of dishes. I'm selecting a few here that I like:

Eirik Solheim

Sulabha prabhune, from Wikimedia Commons

Paruchuri.ramya.sree, from Wikimedia Commons

Elin B

Eat it or Wear it:
Tomato is also known for its skin hydrating and nourishing properties, and is a great source of vitamins A, C and K. So besides including it in your regular diet, you should also use it to create refreshing face packs and cleansers.

The Doctor Prescribes:
tomatoes are very rich in antioxidants that are effective against many diseases, especially cancer.
They also contain an impressive amount of nutrients and vitamins, which include vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K, as well as, significant amounts of vitamin B6, folate, and thiamine.
In addition, tomatoes are an excellent source of potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. They also have dietary fiber and protein.

Caution:
"Calcium oxalate monohydrate is responsible for the formation of kidney stones. However, stone forming does not take place in every individual. But patients who have been diagnosed with the oxalate stone must be mindful of how much tomatoes they consume. A regulated intake will not be harmful, but excess can be," says Dr. Sood.
"In women, excess consumption of tomatoes can reduce cancer risk by 40%. In men, excess consumption can lower the same risk by 20%. So conclusively we can say that tomatoes at large are beneficial. But if the patient is an oxalate stone former, tomatoes can pose some risk," he concluded.

However, the best part is growing them - here is a video to get you going but it's really not that complicated. I just throw rotten tomatoes in the garden and they grow. 


 To round off this saucy story, here's a joke:

Q. Why did the tomato blush? 
A. Because he saw the salad dressing.