In advance of the Pittston Tomato Festival this week, here are some fun facts about tomatoes:
• The word is pronounced “toe-MAY-toe.”
• Fruit or vegetable? Botanically speaking, a fruit. Horticulturally (and legally), a vegetable. In 1893, the U.S. Supreme Court legally classified the tomato as a vegetable because it is used as one.
• Cold or room temperature? Never refrigerate. Picking tomatoes right off the vine and shoving them into a refrigerator kills the aromas and flavors.
• Red and soft to the touch means ripe. A tomato shouldn’t be picked until it is completely red, unless fried green tomatoes are on the menu. The touch test is the best way to check for ripeness. If it’s hard and the skin is stretched, leave it on the vine. It should be firm with a little give.
• If you make a habit of eating tomatoes in the form of sauce, ketchup or tomato paste, you can reduce your chances of getting cancer. In fact, men can reduce the risk for developing prostate cancer by up to 43 percent.
• Tomatoes do not have to be cooked to make tomato sauce. Raw or living tomato sauce is delicious and can be made with almost the same recipe as cooked sauce. Just add sweetener (such as medjool dates, de-pitted) and throw the ingredients into a food processor. Adjust seasonings to taste. Makes a great meal for hot days on shredded zucchini or cold pasta.
• A Bloody Mary (tomato juice, vodka, salt, pepper, Tobasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce) helps cure hangovers. The tomato juice is full of vitamins and the vodka, well, it helps ween your body off the alcohol.
• Drinking tomato juice, and bathing in it, has been advocated for skin disorders such as eczema. But using tomato juice after being sprayed by a skunk is an old wives’ tale. The best remedy is to neutralize the odor by using a solution of hydrogen peroxide on humans and animals and bleach for everything else.
• Tomatoes were the original pin cushion. Did you ever wonder why there are so many tomato pin cushions out there? Apparently, they were pretty handy when it came to sewing, a practice now outdated.
• The best way to ripen tomatoes is to put them next to apples or bananas. Apples and bananas give off ethylene gases which speeds up the ripening process.
• Tomato leaves are poisonous.
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