by Paolo Sari the unique Michelin starred bio chef MONACO. After the potato, tomato is the most consumed ad loved vegetable in the world. (even though technically its classified as a fruit). Selective breeding managed to refine tomato into very nutritious state, filled with vitamin A, C, E, antioxidants, and more. The first European contact with tomato came with Christopher Columbus who possibly encountered it in 1493, but it was Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés who first saw the potential of this plant in the sacked city of Aztec city of Tenochtítlan and took its seeds back to Europe. Cultivated originally in the Andean region in several species of different shapes and colors, the original tomato was the “Lycopersicon pimpinelli follium” which we know as tomato red currant. The word “tomato” is a distortion of the Atzec word “Tomalt”.
From that point on, tomato slowly spread across the central and South America. There, seeing that tomato could grow without a problem in a warm Mediterranean climate, Spanish government started encouraging its production in both Europe and its distant colonies. As early as 1540s tomato started being produced in South Italy and Spanish fields, where it was named “pomodoro” (golden apple) Pierandrea Mattioli, an Italian physician and botanist, was the first known scientist to talk about tomato, both in terms of his classification in the family of “solanaceae” and in terms of his taste. In 1544 the plant was classified into the “solanaceae” (solanum lycopersicum) thanks to the famous eighteenth-century Swedish naturalist botanist Carl Von Linne (Linneaus). However, it has long been dreaded by its resemblance to the mandrake used as a hallucinogenic since the antiquity. In the sixteenth century Florentine Caterina de Medicis brought tomatoes to the French Court.
Cherished for their beauty, they were used only as a tabletop decoration fruit until late 17th and early 18th century. Tomato received similar fate in England, where it was introduced in 1597, but it remained viewed as unhealthy, poisonous and unfit to eat in both England and its North American colonies. That changed in mid-18th century after many advances in selective breeding from Spain and Italy. Finally, in 1731, the Scottish botanist Philippe Miller recognizes and officially classifies the tomato as edible. In 1893 there was a debate in the United States as to whether the tomato was a fruit or a vegetable, as vegetables pay taxes and fruits do not. The court ruled that tomato is a vegetable under customs law (a decision taken in front of the popularity of tomatoes and therefore the real possibility of reporting funds to the state).
Tomatoes in my gardens
Tomatoes followed the artichokes culture in our vegetable gardens above Monaco. In 2015 and 2016 we planted exclusively Oxheart tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. In 2017 we recovered seeds from some ancient biological and autochthonous varieties: Crimean black, pineapple yellow and green zebra. Varieties and colors of tomato enhance the Mediterranean cuisine.
We strictly use tomatoes cultivated in our gardens on the Côte d’Azur, from June to October. Tomatoes are loaded with many, many health benefits. In fact, they are incredibly versatile and can be prepared in a seemingly endless number of dishes, as well as being great to eat alone. In our bio-cuisine recipes we use tomatoes for sauce (Cooked tomatoes produce even more lycopene), spaghetti, salad, bruschetta, fish sauce or simply with good mozzarella bufala. A little secret? The tomato must always be collected fresh, well ripe and never stored in a refrigerator.
Health Benefits from Eating Tomatoes
Tomatoes contain a high level of lycopene. A number of studies have been conducted that indicate that the high levels of lycopene in tomatoes works to reduce your chances of developing prostate, colorectal and stomach cancer. Lycopene is a natural antioxidant that works effectively to slow the growth of cancerous cells. Tomatoes contain a considerable amount of calcium and Vitamin K. Both of these nutrients are essential in strengthening and performing minor repairs on the bones as well as the bone tissue. Tomatoes contain coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid that work to protect the body from carcinogens that are produced from cigarette smoke. Tomatoes contain a great deal of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. This is primarily because these vitamins and beta-carotene work as antioxidants to neutralize harmful free radicals in the blood.
Free radicals in the blood stream are dangerous because it may lead to cell damage. Remember, the redder the tomato you eat is, the more beta-carotene it contains. In addition, you also want to keep in mind that cooking destroys the Vitamin C, so for these benefits, the tomatoes need to be eaten raw. Because of the Vitamin B and potassium in tomatoes, they are effective in reducing cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure. Therefore, by including tomatoes in your regular balanced diet you can effectively prevent heart attacks, strokes as well as many other heart related problems that may threaten your life. Adding tomatoes without seeds to your diet has been proven in some studies to reduce the risk of kidney stones. The Vitamin A found in tomatoes is fantastic for improving your vision. In addition, eating tomatoes is one of the best foods to eat to prevent the development of night blindness. Tomatoes are packed full of the valuable mineral known as chromium. It works effectively to help diabetics keep their blood sugar levels under better control.
Three questions to Philippe Federzoni
Philippe Federzoni is son to Jean Federzoni, a cutting edge hortoculturist “maraîcher“ in the village of Grasse-French Region PACA Provence Alps Côte d’Azur. In 1970, after a pesticide poisoning infection, he founded the family business Naturdis, specialized in the production and distribution of organic products. Soon, the family invested in crops’integrated pest management also.
Q.Philippe, how did you develop the cultivation of tomatoes in the region? A. In 2009 our family bought an additional 4 hectares on the hill of Saint Joseph, rehabilitating an abandoned site to convert it into organic market gardening. Therefore we developed and increased the production of quality tomatoes and consolidated the fruit of the work of a family strongly anchored in the Grasse farming environment. Naturdis logistics distribute the products, together with some local partners.
Q.Does tomato adapt well in Provence? A. The organic tomato is grown and planted in Grasse. Here soil is very favorable to the cultivation of this fruit so much appreciated in summer. The cultivation of tomatoes, like any organic fruit or vegetable, is a long-term job that requires years of technique. Our customers today are specialty shops, star-rated restaurants, and especially schools’ catering. Tomato is one of the most moisturizing fruits due to its high water content.
Q. Is watering important in the organic growing process? A. We constantly control watering. Also, we monitor and prevent invasion by the pests. It is a constant follow-up to ensure the good growth of this fruit, which therefore will give a good taste and nutritive result.
Paolo Sari’s Recipe of “caprese” salad with tomato and mozzarella
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Ingredients for 4 people:
2 oxheart tomatoes – 200g of cherry tomatoes -200g of yellow variety tomatoes -4 mozzarella bufala 200g each – 1 small basil plant – Extra virgin olive oil variety “Taggiasca – I Bio Attitude” – 20 olives “Taggia variety”, pitted – Fresh ground pepper – 10 anchovies – Lemon Zest – Fleur de sel (salt)
Directions: Sliced mozzarella must be used at room temperature. Wash and dry tomatoes. Boil the oxheart tomatoes for 30 seconds to peel them thoroughly. Cut them horizontaly in half, drain water and take out seeds with a spoon. Season with salt, basil, pepper and oil. Marinate for 15 minutes. Slice the cherry tomatoes into quarters and set them to marinate for 15 minute. Clean the anchovy thoroughly. Marinate the fillets with olive oil, pepper, salt flower and lemon zest. Place the mozzarella slices and the oxheart tomatoes side by side on a plate. Fill the oxheart tomatoes with cherry tomatoes and olives. Garnish with olives, anchovy fillets, some basil leaves and a generous touch of extra virgin oil.