So they call us Tomato Lovers? So what! Across this country and across our planet earth, there are tens of thousands of us Tomato Lovers. Ever have a tomato sandwich with a dash of salt, olive oil and freshly chopped basil on a slice of Italian ciabatta bread?
Inhale a little of la dolce vita, for at one time in our life we were all just regular amateur gardeners. We grew small vegetable gardens that fed us and our families. We purchased a variety of grocery store hot house tomatoes and used them in sandwiches and even bought factory produced red pasta sauces. We were busy, but then one day, we tasted a home grown tomato that Uncle Tony had grown in his back yard garden. That was the day we discovered the aroma and the true taste of a home grown tomato. The next time I saw Uncle Tony, I begged him to tell me his secrets for growing such a delicious tomato. Uncle Tony sat me down and proceeded with the first of many lectures concerning the noble tomato. Here are some of the highlights of what I learned from listening to my uncle’s lectures.
Hernán Cortés, an early Spanish explorer in 1519 found tomatoes growing in Mexico that were used as food by the Aztecs. When he returned to Spain, he brought back tomato seeds. The first tomato plants to bear fruit in Europe were the yellow variety and not the red. Because of the yellow color and resemblance in shape and size to the apple, the Italians in 1548 named the fruit golden apple which translates in the Italian language to Pomi d’oro (pomodoro). The Nahuatl word tomatl gave rise to the Spanish word tomate, from which the English word tomato derived.
My Uncle Tony said that the first Italian cookbook The Modern Steward, by Chef Antonio Latini to include tomato sauce was published in 1692 in the city of Rome, Italy. Uncle Tony went on to say that Giovanni & Assunta Cantisano founded the Ragu Packing Co. in 1937 Rochester, New York. He then asked me what was the meaning of the Italian word Ragù? Though I love my uncle dearly, I told him that I was not a complete idiot. And that any good Italian American knows that Ragù is a hearty gravy, typically made with beef, tomatoes, and finely chopped onions, celery, and carrots. With a sheepish look on his face, he changed the subject by saying that he was going to talk about the different types of Pomodoros.
Okay sonny, you’ve had two months to read the tomato books I told you to get. If you don’t get at least 50% of these questions, I’m going to be very disappointed with you.
Fa bene, do your best Zio, ask away!
Domanda numero uno or Question Number 1
What’s really popular with home tomato growers is early fruit ripening, 50 to 62 days?
That’s an easy one Zio, it’s the Early Girl Tomato
Zio: Umm, bene, your right. I’ll just speak English now. I’ll start reading my list of tomato questions. If I don’t say anything, your question is correct. Let's begin.
Number 2 Type of cocktail tomato, noted for its juiciness, high sugar content, low acidity.
Number 3 Tomatoes are the most concentrated food source of this important antioxidant.
Lycopene Zio, you look shocked?
NO TALKING, until you miss one
Number 4 Sauce recipe usually made with tomatoes, garlic, basil & onions.
Ha, no meat! Marinara, or in English, Mariner’s sauce
Number 5 Italian favorite since early 19th century, named for this Italian port city.
Costoluto Genovese Pomodoro Zio: Deo mio, your right!
Number 6 Variety of Italian plum tomatoes. Considered by chefs to be the best of paste tomatoes.
San Marzano Tomato
Number 7 Sizes range from thumb tip to golf ball?
Number 8 Synonymous with tomatoes, Italian-American brand name means ‘woman of the fields’.
Number 9 Botanically a fruit, for culinary purposes it is what?
Number 10 Many weigh in excess of one pound and are the largest varieties of cultivated tomatoes.
Number 11 Type of tomatoes that lack a genetic mutation that gives tomatoes an appealing uniform red color.
Number 12 The tomato originated from what South American Mountain Range?
Andes Mountain Range
Number 13 Tomato is a member of the solanaceae family of flowering plants, also known as? Nightshades
Number 14 The distinct features of this Tomato the characteristic dark green & yellow stripes. Cherokee Purple Tomato
You know Sonny, I’m very proud of you. This was a tough quiz about tomatoes. But I have saved this super tough question just in case you got the first fourteen questions correct. Even I did not know the correct answer. If you get this one correct, you will be the master and I will be your student. Here we go.
Number 15 This now famous tomato has almost a cult following among seed collectors and tomato connoisseurs. Identify this Russian heirloom tomato that was named in honor of what American opera singer?
Now take your time sonny.
Zio, I hate to do this to you, as you will always be my master. But the answer is:
Zio: I give up!