Not all vegetables (or fruits) would have the privilege of being immortalized in a poem by Chilean poet and Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda. But then, not all vegetables or fruits are the tomato. “Star of earth, recurrent, and fertile star...no pit, no husk, no leaves or thorns, the tomato offers its gift of fiery colour and cool completeness” (Ode to Tomatoes).
The tomato is used mainly as a vegetable, but it is a fruit—actually, a berry. This botanical diversity is amply reflected in the way it’s used. It’s salsa in Latin America and doubles up as chutney in India; a Bloody Mary worldwide, and a sauce in pasta. You can use it in salads or sorbets, you can fry it, pickle it or mash it, but we recommend this recipe for the avocado, fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, so that you can have the tomato in its pristine, fresh form.
Tomato contains lycopene, one of the most powerful natural antioxidants. Some studies show it helps prevent prostate cancer. Lycopene is also believed to decrease the risk of breast, head and neck cancers. Lycopene has also been shown to improve the skin’s ability to protect itself against harmful ultraviolet rays.
This helps your nerves function properly and gives strength to your muscles. Your risk of hypertension comes down if you eat potassium-rich foods. Tomatoes, along with bananas, are a great source of potassium. One tomato can provide at least 10% of your daily requirement.
This improves eyesight and strengthens immunity against colds and flu. A cup of natural tomato juice can provide around 20% of your daily vitamin A requirement.
Vitamin C protects us from free radicals, which tear away at the immune system and promote viruses and other illnesses. A cup of natural tomato juice can provide you with over 50% of your daily vitamin C requirement.
EAT IT THIS WAY
Avocado, fresh mozzarella and tomato salad
2 ripe tomatoes
1 ripe avocado
2 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 fresh basil leaves
Peel the skin off the tomatoes after putting them in boiling water for a few seconds. Then refrigerate for 30 minutes and cut them into slices. Cut the mozzarella cheese into thin slices. Peel the avocado, remove the nut and cut into thick slices without breaking them. Ensure all the vegetable ingredients are chilled well before use. On a clean white platter, alternately arrange mozzarella, tomato and avocado slices in a circle or a straight line. Sprinkle salt and pepper as required. Dredge with extra virgin olive oil and garnish with basil.
Red goodness: The summer salad with tomato is good for heart health.
—Ravi Saxena, executive chef, Claridges, New Delhi.