What does one make of a tomato? Not a big deal, I guess would be most people’s reaction. They won’t usually make you sit up and pay attention, unlike say, durians might. Tomatoes are just there, or not. I mean, if there are slices of tomato in my sandwich I’d eat them, but if there aren’t I normally wouldn’t miss them either.
I do have to admit that I started paying more attention to tomatoes after I watched the movie Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). The movie is based on the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flag. The movie tells parallel stories of friendship and loyalty between women from different eras – the years between World Wars I and II and the 1980s. The big kicker in the movie was how one of the women’s abusive husband was murdered and then served as a delicious barbeque meal, which the Whistle Stop Café was popular for, to regular patrons and the investigating officer. In the end with no evidence against them, the women literally got away with murder.
Fried green tomatoes as a dish only made a cameo appearance in the movie, if I remember correctly. But it intrigued me enough that there was even such a thing. And more so, that such an itsy-bitsy part or prop in the movie could be used as the movie’s title. I don’t know why it is, but I find these small things fascinating. In any case, the result is that I started paying more attention to tomatoes (oh boy, what’s going to happen when Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released on screens in Singapore next month!).
I actually like tomatoes very much. You know why? Because there’s something seductive about the way a tomato looks, with its shiny and smooth orangey-red-tinged skin. And when you bite into one, the juicy sweetish flavour explodes in your mouth. It’s really quite an exhilirating and sensual experience in my opinion.
But tomatoes don’t just look great and taste good. They’re excellent for health too, so much so that medical experts call it a “superfood”. Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins A and C. In fact, tomatoes are pretty impressive for the high amount of vitamin C they have that can help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer.
This gem of a food also contains a wide array of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, folic acid, beta-carotene and lutein. In particular, the choline found in tomatoes helps to improve sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory.
An exciting tidbit about tomatoes is that some tomato lovers claim they actually work as an aphrodisiac, with the ability to boost one’s sexual prowess. In fact, the French call tomatoes pommes d’amour, which means “love apples” – what a fun and playful name to set the right mood!
So, hopefully now you’ll pay more attention to tomatoes too, and not only that, but to also eat tomatoes regularly because they’ve got great health benefits. A wonderful thing about tomatoes is the wide variety of ways they can be cooked, so you can enjoy eating your tomatoes in many different dishes. You can roast them whole, halve and grill them or slice and fry them. Tomatoes can be used in sauces, soups, stews and salads. And of course tomatoes are great eaten raw as well, as a complement to dishes or on their own like an apple (a.k.a. love apples, remember?).
Although the tomato is really a fruit, it’s often treated like a vegetable in the way it’s cooked and eaten. I’ve been told by friends who are culinary enthusiasts that the best way to bring the flavour out of tomatoes is to leave them on the stem when cooking them. But you’ll probably want to avoid actually eating the tomato’s leaves and stems because they contain small amounts of the toxic alkaloid tomatine.
Ok, so you’ve gone to the store and bought some tomatoes, now how should you store them? Ripe tomatoes can be stored at room temperature, but remember to use them within a few days, ie. no more than five days I’d suggest. Also remember not to put tomatoes in the refrigerator, as the overly cold temperature will kill the flavour of the tomatoes and turn their flesh grainy. Mind you, the fridge is usually a lot colder than the supermarket’s chillers that keep the tomatoes just nicely fresh and crisp.
We’re never short on tomatoes here in Singapore. Singapore imports tomatoes from at least 24 countries including Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, and there are plenty of varieties available in Singapore to choose from as well.
At Sofresh, we easily supply between 250 to 300 tons of tomatoes each year to cruise ships and our other clients in the commercial vessel, oil and gas, offshore and onshore catering businesses. Just about everyone uses tomatoes in countless ways: regular tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes… You name the tomato, chances are we supply it!
A cruise ship will take on board a lot of tomatoes, along with all kinds of other fresh produce and food products, each time she calls at Singapore. And most cruise ships are scheduled to make multiple calls at Singapore throughout the cruise season.
For example, last season we supplied just Holland America Line’s MV Volendam alone with around 18 tons of tomatoes. Put all the tomatoes going on board all the cruise ships we supply each season – now, that’s a lot of tomatoes, and that’s a lot of love on the high seas. Till the next one, plus d’amour everyone!