The Humble Tomato

A fruit native to South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonisation of the Americas.

Tomatoes are sometimes overlooked as being an important player in the kitchen, but they truly are an irreplaceable essential! That is, once you get an understanding of each tomato product on the market and how it should be used.

Tinned Tomatoes
A plum tomato, such as Roma or San Marzano, are the most common choice for canning. They have a greater solid-to-liquid ratio and make a more substantial canned product. Commercial canners generally use a processing tomato, which has a firmer outer peel and pectin layer. Tins are usually available in whole peeled or diced (firmer and unpeeled). Tinned whole peeled tomatoes are usually sweeter than diced.

Passata is basically just uncooked, crushed tomatoes that have been strained to remove the skin and seeds. It is usually made from high quality ripe tomatoes, resulting in a well flavoured tomato base that is generally superior to standard tinned tomatoes. Passata is an excellent base for sauces and perfect as a pizza sauce.

Tomato Paste
Is a thick paste made by cooking tomatoes for several hours to reduce the water content, straining out the seeds and skins, and cooking the liquid again to reduce the base to a thick, rich concentrate. Tomato paste is sometimes referred to as tomato purée in recipes from the UK, however the quantity required is going to be the distinguishing factor – you usually only require small quantities of tomato paste (ie: 1 or 2 tablespoons), whereas, if you were required to use actual tomato purée the quantity would be much greater.

Tomato Purée
In contrast to the Tomato Paste, tomato purée is a liquid with a consistency between crushed tomatoes and tomato paste that is made from tomatoes that have been briefly boiled and strained. It is not to be confused with the uncooked Passata. It is not as rich as Tomato Paste.

Sun-dried Tomatoes
Are ripe tomatoes that lose most of their water content after spending a majority of their drying time in the sun (for up to 10 days). These tomatoes are usually pre-treated with sulfur-dioxide or salt before being placed in the sun in order to improve quality. They can be re-hydrated before use.

Semi-dried (or sunblush) Tomatoes
These tomatoes go through the same process as the sun-dried variety, but they are removed from the heat half way through the drying stage resulting in a less chewy, plump and semi-juicy tomato. They have an intense sweet summer flavour.

Tomato Ketchup
Is a sweet and tangy sauce, typically made from tomatoes, sweetener, vinegar, and assorted seasonings and spices. Seasonings vary by recipe, but commonly include onions, allspice, coriander, cloves, cumin, garlic, mustard and sometimes celery, cinnamon or ginger.

Confusingly tomato sauce is the more common term in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa.

Tomato Sauce
Also known as Neapolitan sauce, and referred to in Italy as Napoletana sauce, refers to any of a very large number of sauces made primarily from tomatoes, usually to be served as part of a dish (rather than as a condiment as is the Tomato Ketchup).

Tomato Juice
Is exactly as the label says – it’s juice from tomatoes. Great in cocktails, such as the original Bloody Mary…

3 parts Vodka
6 parts Tomato juice
1 part Lemon juice
2 to 3 dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
Celery salt

Mix in a highball glass, garnish with a stick of celery and drink! 🙂