None of those flavorful dishes would be possible without this highly appreciated vegetable. It came to Spain back in the 16th century, via South America, through Peru and Mexico. At first, it was used as decoration in the lavish palace parties in Central Europe.
In Italy it was placed at the bottom of the stairs and looked like a luxury ornament, which gave rise to its name “pomo d’oro”.
Back then, tomatoes had a yellow color and were not used as cooking ingredients. Only in the early 18th century they began to be cultivated. In fact, Spain is today a world leader in tomato production, harvesting no less than 2.8 million tons a year. Levante has the honor of being the most appropriate land for this fruit— as it enjoys a sunny climate for much of the year— followed in production by Almería, Catalonia and Andalusia.
Eaten raw, tomatoes provide a high percentage of Vitamin C and carotene. It is a fundamental ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, and along with garlic and olive oil is the basis of an endless bounty of Spanish, Italian and French recipes. In fact, it is almost impossible to find many dishes that don’t include tomatoes in one form or another.
Most markets offer several types of tomatoes:
Plum Tomatoes: small, very tasty and have almost no seeds; often used in salads.
Cherry Tomatoes: tiny, delicate, and sweet with a fruity flavor. Although they are more expensive, they are unrivaled to decorate any salad.
Round tomatoes: These vary in size according to their variety and the time of year. They are produced in the Iberian Peninsula and the islands.
But today, I bring you a novelty that has just been presented in Spain at the Fruit Attraction Exhibit 2015: the San Marzano Baby tomato.
This variety is obtained from the seeds of the highest quality traditional tomatoes planted and matured outdoors. Those presented at the exhibit have been ripening since early this year. Originated in Almeria and Sicily, they are characterized by a deep red color, scented aroma, pronounced flavor and distinctive texture.
The best way to enjoy them is with anchovies in oil, with extra virgin olive oil like “Masia El Altet” or with “Planet” oil from Sicily. Or simply with tuna belly and red onion cut into thin slices.
Sun-ripened tomatoes have the best flavor; they are very versatile and can be used in many ways in the kitchen. Any simple pasta can be a real treat if we accompany it with pomodoro San Marzano Baby.
Buon appetito. ■