The tomato is the fruit of a herbaceous plant native to South America, which is now cultivated widely in both warm and temperate climates throughout the world. The fruit of the plant is generally sphe-rical in shape although irregularities, such as cherry tomatoes and pear-shaped tomatoes, do occur. The green parts of the plant contain poisonous alkaloids, therefore the leaves and stalks should not be eaten.
The fruit, when ripe, is red or golden in colour, with reddish flesh and small yellow or green seeds. It is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and has a high sugar and water content.
Tomatoes are readily available either fresh, canned or bottled whole or as a puree and juice. Tomatoes may be used to add flavour and colour to many dishes such as soups, salads, stuffings, chutneys, sauces and casseroles. The fresh fruit may be stuffed. Tomatoes may be cooked by baking, frying, grilling or steaming.
The skins of tomatoes may be removed by blanching in boiling water or heating gently over a flame.