Small, yellow — and supposedly an aphrodisiac — the first tomato was native to the Peruvian Andes. Over the years it has had many name changes, transformations and descriptions. Few vegetables have had such culinary impact as the tomato. Botanically it is a fruit but it is enjoyed as a vegetable.

There is some debate about the nutritional content of tomatoes. Is it better to eat them raw or cooked? Water-soluble vitamins such as C and B which include folate, leach out of vegetables when they are cooked, although some will be retained in any juice or stock. The longer the cooking time the more vitamin levels are reduced. However, levels of other nutrients may increase. While cooking decreases the level of vitamin C in tomatoes, it increases levels of antioxidants, including lycopene, the carotenoid plant pigment that helps protect the body from free radical damage. 

The common medium-sized red tomato is a great all-rounder for slicing and enjoying raw or cooked. Cherry tomatoes now come in different hues and shapes and are excellent raw in salads or as a healthy snack. The fleshy plum (Italian or acid-free) tomatoes are the best for sauces. And the new yellow tomatoes — slightly larger than a golf-ball — are something to relish when served raw but develop exceptional flavour when fried.



A yummy variation on bruschetta.

4 English muffins, split
Spread: 3 tablespoons butter or table spread, softened
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Topping: 3 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
8 pitted black olives, chopped
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
50g fresh mozzarella, cut into 8 pieces

Toast the muffins until golden. Place on an oven tray.

Preheat the grill.

Spread the split muffins with the combined spread ingredients. Combine the tomatoes with the olives, black pepper and lemon juice. Using a slotted spoon, pile on the muffins. Top with a piece of mozzarella.

Grill for 1-2 minutes until the cheese is melted. Serves 4.


Use store-prepared pesto if you wish, thinning it with lemon juice. Spiralisers — gadgets that transform vegetables into noodles or slices — are available from most kitchen ware stores.

Pesto: 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
1 tablespoon each: grated lemon rind and juice
flaky sea salt and black pepper to taste
Noodles: 3 courgettes
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Tomatoes: 6-8 yellow tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the pesto, heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the remaining pesto ingredients and heat until the greens are wilted. Place in a blender and process until smooth. This can be prepared ahead and refrigerated. Warm slightly before using.

To prepare the noodles, spiralise or julienne the courgettes. Heat the oil and stir in the courgette noodles, cooking until crisp-tender. Season and combine lightly with 2-3 tablespoons of the pesto.

Meanwhile, fry the tomatoes in oil until just softened. Season.

Place the noodles in two shallow bowls. Top with the tomatoes. Great garnished with shaved parmesan and marigold leaves. Any remaining pesto can be served on the side. Serves 2.


Add to pasta for a flavoursome sauce. Or serve as a side dish for grills.

4 cups cherry tomatoes
4 sprigs thyme
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 125°C.

Arrange the tomatoes in a large baking dish. Sprinkle with the thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. Bake for about 2 - 2 1/2 hours, until the tomatoes are shrivelled and soft.

Serve warm or cold. May be refrigerated — covered — for 3 days. Serves 4.


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