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YOU SAY TOMATO, I SAY TOMATHO

03/04/2013

Sounds the same but isn’t :) Just like organic and conventional grown tomatoes look almost the same, but are so definitely very different. I decided to write about tomatoes today, because for me this sour sweet beauty of nature has always been somehow a symbol of spring… maybe it`s the bright red color, speaking of the pure energy of the new beginning; maybe it`s a childhood memory, eating a fresh tomato with feta cheese and bread under the warm sun, anticipating the long months of the upcoming summer holiday… actually now it occurs to me, that maybe most modern kids will grow up without such memories. Imagine that. But, what can we do? Well, besides of thanking God for having had the beautiful childhood we did have, what we can do is only keep on doing what we already are – reminding how important reconnecting with nature is. So before going to scientific data on how important it is to eat clean, organic tomatoes, grown locally, and not the conventional produce sold in supermarkets, let`s say a few words about where this round beauty comes from. No way to skip it, tradition requires to start with reminding that tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable. But you already knew that, I`m sure :) The word “tomato” comes from Spanish, tomate and it first appeared in print 1595. Funny thing is, like many others things, it took humans a long time before realizing what a lovely thing they have. People believed tomatoes to be poisonous (actually, the leaves are) and planted them for decoration, not food. Thanks to the Spanish, in early 16th century tomato seeds were first brought to Europe. As we might guess, Italians were the first to cultivate the tomato. The bright red color we think is the true tomato color back then was not known. Italians called tomatoes pomi d`oro, which means yellow apples – from which we come to the conclusion that this is what they were, yellow. Nowadays we know many different types and variations of tomato – red, yellow, green, even (hmmm) black.  A recent study, through chemical analysis and blind tests, was held with 152 varieties of tomatoes! The results reveal why people prefer one type to another. Once accounting for fructose, there were seven compounds linked to flavor intensity: 2-butylacetate, cis-3-hexen-1- ol, citric acid, 3-methyl-1-butanol, 2-methylbutanal, 1-octen- 3-one, and trans,trans-2,4-decadienal. For sweetness, eight of those overlapped, and three more joined the list: geranial, 2-methylbutanal, and 3-methyl-1-butanol.

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The researchers also discovered a link between certain volatiles (odor-producing chemicals) and our perception of sweetness; their presence made people feel like the fruit was sweeter than the sugar content could account for. The winner, what most people like above all others, is the cherry roma tomato. So, we know what the perfect chemical composition of a tomato is. But do we know what is in it when it comes to nutritional value? Conventionally and organically grown tomato might have the same composition and be equally perfect in taste, but what does each bring into your system?  Another study held recently shows that organic tomatoes are better for your health than those grown using chemicals. The objective of testing was the hypothesis that organic tomatoes accumulate more nutritional compounds such as phenolic and Vitamin C. And, yes, the hypothesis proved right, as they were found to contain 55% more Vitamin C and !139% more phenolic compared to conventionally grown tomatoes.

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Here is what the authors say: “Taken together, our observations suggest that tomato fruits from organic farming experienced stressing conditions that resulted in oxidative stress and the accumulation of higher concentrations of soluble solids as sugars and other compounds contributing to fruit nutritional quality such as vitamin C and phenolic compounds.” Phenolics are essential for maintaining good health as they are invaluable ally in fighting oxidant stress, which might cause cardio vascular diseases, cancer, and dementia. Another significant difference is the lycopene content – the compound that gives the tomato its red color. It`s a vital anti-oxidant that has potent anti-cancerous activity. Unfortunately the human body does not produce it naturally, so you must supply it via food. I guess you do not need any more convincing on whether or not to choose organic… If you do, here is a very detailed scientific research on phenolic content: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814611009642 And, remember, always go not only for organic, but also for locally grown.