Medicinal plants

Tomato

Introduction

It is used to prepare tasty sauces and salads. Spaghetti with sauce is also very famous, making this product one of the most loved and appreciated in the kitchen. We are talking about the tomato, the fruit of a plant belonging to the Solanaceae, the same as the aubergines and potatoes. The tomato has been considered the king of vegetables for centuries because it is grown in gardens for both ornamental and gastronomic purposes. Also present in small gardens, the tomato is not only a vegetable that can be grown for decorative purposes or to prepare delicious dishes, but it is also a product that can be widely used in phytotherapy for its many beneficial properties. However, this «fruit» also contains substances with a toxic and allergenic effect; substances that it is better to know in order to avoid feeling discomfort when consuming tomatoes, both raw and cooked. Knowing the properties of the tomato, the substances it contains and the methods of use and consumption allows you to make the most of the beneficial effects of this vegetable. In the next paragraphs we will take a look at both the general characteristics of the tomato plant and the strictly phytotherapeutic characteristics of its fruits.

General characteristics


The tomato, botanical name Solanum lycopersicum or Lycopersicon esculentum, is a plant belonging to the Solanaceae family and native to South America. Imported into Europe between the late 1500s and early 1600s, the tomato was initially cultivated for ornamental purposes and for its alleged aphrodisiac properties, which made it give the French name of «pomme d’amour» or tomato of love. or the English one of “tomato of love”. The name of the tomato also derives from the term «apple of the moors», because this plant, together with its fruits, was widely known and appreciated in the Arab world, being called with the name of «apple of the moors». The aphrodisiac properties of tomato have never been confirmed, while the phytotherapeutic and allergenic properties of the fruit still remain valid. The debate on the botanical name of the tomato is also renowned. Linnaeus gave the vegetable the name of Solanum lycopersicum, while more than a century later, the botanist Herman Karsten coined the name Lycopersicon esculentum, due to the evident morphological differences of the tomato with the other solanaceous species. Later, it was highlighted that some properties of the tomato were quite similar to the species of the same plant family, justifying the botanical name Solanum lycopersicum, which still continues to coexist with Lycopersicon esculentum today. due to the evident morphological differences between tomatoes and other solanaceous species. Later, it was highlighted that some properties of the tomato were quite similar to the species of the same plant family, justifying the botanical name Solanum lycopersicum, which still continues to coexist with Lycopersicon esculentum today. due to the evident morphological differences between tomatoes and other solanaceous species. Later, it was highlighted that some properties of the tomato were quite similar to the species of the same plant family, justifying the botanical name Solanum lycopersicum, which still continues to coexist with Lycopersicon esculentum today.

Plant characteristics


The tomato is an annual plant with a creeping or climbing habit. It has large and hairy green leaves (composed of several small leaves), yellow flowers and red fruit containing flattened seeds. The fruit of the tomato initially was not red, but the gold ones, from this color derives the name «golden apple». When the tomato was grown in Europe, grafts began to be practiced which gave the ripe fruit the red color that we all know. The tomato plant tends to crawl on the ground, but this feature compromises the quality of the hardest fruits, which are used exclusively to produce tomato sauces and juices. When the plant assumes a climbing behavior it may be necessary to use supports to favor its regular development. In nature there are tomato varieties that ripen continuously and others that ripen only once. This peculiarity causes the tomato to be divided into indeterminate varieties (continuous development) and specific varieties (with a single development cycle). Due to the climatic conditions of our winters, tomatoes develop into certain varieties, that is, with only one development cycle, which is why they are counted and classified among the annual species. Varieties with indeterminate development can be subjected to scacchiatura, ie the elimination of axillary shoots. These shoots develop from secondary branches, which, if not eliminated, continue to bloom and produce fruit. In any case, if not treated, the secondary fruits have the same characteristics as the main plant. Tomatoes should be grown on fertile, well-drained and non-acidic soils. The temperature of the water for irrigation must correspond to the external one, to avoid thermal shocks to the plant. This is why it is ideal to water them early in the morning or at sunset. The tomato varieties used to prepare sauces and salads are many, among these we remember the San Marzano, pear-shaped, the Ciliegino, in the shape of small spheres similar to cherry, among which the one of Pachino, and of round tomatoes and smooth, including in Sunrise and the Monte Carlo.

What it contains


Tomato contains a variety of substances with both positive and negative effects. Among the beneficial substances we find an antioxidant, lycopene; a large amount of water, which makes up more than 90% of the fruit; proteins, fibers, vitamins B, C, D, E, mineral salts, such as zinc, iron, selenium, phosphorus and calcium; nitrates, citrates, tartrates and organic acids, including malic, citric, glutenin and succinic acids, the share of fats is negligible, equal to 0.2% per 100 grams of product. Tomato also contains a toxic substance, solanine. This is present to a greater extent in the green parts of the plant, such as leaves and stem, which are excluded from human nutrition. Solanine is an alkaloid also present in immature green tomatoes, while it is relatively negligible in ripe red fruits.

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