The Italian word for tomato – “pomodoro” – means golden apple and at first used as a table decoration.
Admired for its beauty but looked on with suspicion, the tomato was at first suspected of being poisonous by many Europeans.
And not only in Europe.
Tomatoes are Poisonous?!
I remember when I was a kid growing up in Jordan there were times that I would go hunting with my dad.
He would hunt each week, mostly for quail and pigeons, in the Jordan Valley.
It was a fun day out, and whereas I wasn’t so much into the hunting and killing of birds, and I didn’t do much of the shooting, it was nice to spend time with my dad.
I remember one day coming across some local people in the valley as we did often.
This day it was around lunch time.
The conversation started around food and hospitably, offering others to share our food.
Which is typical in this part of the world.
I’m not sure how the conversation turned to tomatoes.
Total poison, ruining your day, not to mention your relative’s lives.
I remember my dad taking a bite out of a tomato and dipping it in sugar while these people looked on in horror.
Sure that they were about to witness a suicide.
Only to be totally shocked that no death occurred when mixing these two ingredients.
These people were amazed, which did not mean that they ruled out some kind of sorcery had taken place before their very eyes.
Belonging to the nightshade family, the parts of the tomato plant that is in fact poisonous are the leaves.
The use of tomatoes in different cuisines around the globe is pretty universal these days, with tomatoes being cultivated all over the world.
Italian food is one where the tomato plays an outsized role, and appears in many of the country’s well known dishes.
What is Tomato Passata?
Typically made using San Marzano tomatoes, Italian tomato passata is a method for preserving tomatoes for use throughout the year.
It is something that historically every household makes fresh and then uses all year long.
It is not something that is eaten directly from the bottle as it requires cooking first to reduce the acidity in the tomatoes.
High quality food is something that Italians have a lot of pride in and take food preparation very seriously, and have for a very long time.
Other myths about the tomato in the kitchen have been circulating.
I just wanted to take a minute to correct any misconceptions.
It has long been said that you should store your tomatoes stem side up.
I’m not sure why, however it is actually better to store stem side down to avoid bruising.
Another one is that in order to let your tomatoes ripen they should be left uncovered.
It is true that they will eventually ripen this way.
But a quicker way is to put them in a single layer in a bag and close loosely for quicker ripening.
If you want your green tomatoes to ripen quickly, place them in a bag with apples.
The released ethylene gas creates the perfect conditions.
Should You Refrigerate Tomatoes?
It’s always been said to say no, however a couple of days in the fridge for very ripe tomatoes will lengthen their lives.
Tomatoes have many, many health benefits.
Starting with the antioxidant lycopene with links to reducing risks of heart disease and cancer.
Cooked tomatoes are said to be better for you with the release of beneficial compounds when tomatoes are cooked.
Which Tomatoes Should You Use?
Given that there are 3000 cultivated tomato types in the world, and up to 15000 known types of tomato, which ones would you use for what?
The most common type of tomato in the world is the globe tomato.
These are the round medium sized ones that you will find in most stores, also known as slicing tomatoes.
Traditionally San Marzano tomatoes are used when making passata.
These tomatoes originated in the small town of San Marzano near Naples in Italy.
With it being said that the first seeds were sent from Peru in 1770.
They are heirloom varieties, meaning that they have been passed from generation to generation.
And have been allowed to open-pollinate instead of being bred into a hybrid variety.
There are many types of heirloom tomatoes, and they are prized for their taste and texture.
They come in all kinds of shapes and colors, from red to purple.
What Can You Use Tomato Passata For?
Every family that makes passata usually has their own tradition when it comes to the recipe.
There are so many uses for this very famous Italian sauce, almost as many as there are tomato based dishes.
Passata is great for tomato soups such as gazpacho.
How to Make Homemade Tomato Passata
The meaning of passata is strained tomatoes.
And that is exactly what it is: tomatoes that have been crushed and strained.
With added salt for preservation purposes.
Put the tomatoes that have had any imperfections removed put through a mill, then squeeze and strain removing the skin and seeds.
Some will heat the tomatoes with garlic over medium heat for 40 minutes or so.
This is not a traditional way of making passata.
But if you can’t make things the way you like them, then why bother?!
Tomato Passata Recipe
- 2 lbs Tomatoes
- First core the tomatoes.
- Pour tomatoes into a tomato press which will crush the tomatoes and separate the skins and seeds from the flesh.
- All containers should be sterilized if you plan to jar these passata for storage.
- Season with salt, bottle, and then boil the bottles to ensure sterilization.