I say tomato, you say tomahto. I say fruit, you say vegetable. Let’s just call them delicious!
Grown locally and eaten all year round, tomatoes are at their best price and flavour in the warmer months when we also see the gorgeous heirloom varieties hit the market.
New Zealand has about 130 tomato growers who produce $131 million worth of tomatoes per annum, the majority of which is consumed locally. Most tomatoes in New Zealand are grown indoors in a soilless medium like pumice, rockwool or sawdust filled plastic bags. These are all hydroponic or semi-hydroponic systems where the tomato vine will grow up on strings and these are then ingeniously pulled up as the tomato grows, allowing new fruit to be produced on the emerging growth. Bumble bees are used for pollination, often along with biological pest control and beneficial insects cutting down on the need for chemical pesticides.
There are literally thousands of varieties of tomatoes, varying in size from the huge beefsteak to tiny cherry tomatoes, and in colour from green, yellow and brown to red and purple. Some are even striped or variegated.
Small, medium and large tomatoes are sold on the truss. There are many different vine varieties, and as a general rule vine varieties have a very intense flavour.
These have a sweet intense flavour and have a variety of uses from garnish to tossing through salads or pasta. Several different varieties are on the market and the colours range from red through to yellow and purple.
Dark brown to golden green, the Kumato© is sweeter than normal tomatoes, with a contrasting slightly sour note. It is also super juicy while having a firm flesh, making it the perfect choice in a salad.
Plum, low acid and Roma tomatoes
These tomatoes are oval or plum shaped, have firmer flesh, fewer seeds and less juice than standard varieties, making them ideal for cooking. They come in differing shapes and sizes. Levels of acid vary with variety (no tomato is entirely acid free). Large plum varieties are often known as Roma.
In recent years the celebration of tomatoes as more than the splash of red in every sandwich and burger has seen the resurgence of heirloom varieties. Their fabulous variety of colours, shapes and pure tomato flavour makes
a chef’s job an easy one when they need little preparation or additions. Heirloom tomatoes tend to be produced by the smaller, specialist tomato growers, such as West Coast Tomatoes in West Auckland. Talk to your local Bidfresh team about their local tomato growers producing heirloom varieties in the summer growing season.
These make up a very small percentage (around 1%) of the total tomato crop and tend to be less firm than greenhouse-grown tomatoes. They have a lumpier and flatter
shape and tend to be available from January to April.
Fruit vs Vegetable
In the US in 1887, a tariff was imposed on all vegetables, but not on fruit. This caused the status of tomatoes to become a matter of legal importance. In the end it was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 10,
1893, who declared tomatoes to be a vegetable, based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use—they are generally served with dinner and not dessert (Nix v.
Hedden (149 U.S. 304)). Since that time, it’s become common that most people think of tomato as a vegetable; however, botanists and Bidfresh disagree and for those of us in the fresh produce wholesale business, we still refer to tomatoes as fruit.
Is there any other fresh fruit or vegetable like tomato, one that’s essential in so many cuisines and has an endless list of uses yet is just as delicious and beautiful sliced on toast?
Originating in South America, the Spanish introduced tomatoes to Europe, where they became a mainstay in Spanish and Italian food and is now grown and eaten around the world in diverse cuisines and ways. Just think about it, tomato is one of the most common sauces! They are crucial in dishes from pizza and lasagne to bouillabaisse, salsa and salads. Their juice is a popular drink as is or served as a cocktail. Their intense flavour is preserved (sundried tomatoes, tomato paste, passata and tinned tomatoes) to add depth of flavour and that elusive yumminess throughout the year.