Tasty Tomato Facts and a Spicy Tomato & Chilli Relish Recipe

Tasty Tomato Facts and a Spicy Tomato & Chilli Relish Recipe


L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

Tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family along with aubergines, chillies and peppers. They have seeds and grow from a flowering plant, so botanically they are classed as a fruit not a vegetable. Their skin, flesh and seeds are edible but their green leaves are toxic.

Around 7500 varieties are grown around the world, but these are the most common types:

  • Beefsteak: the biggest tomatoes with a sweet, mellow flavour. Good for salads, grilling or stuffing.
  • Salad: the traditional British tomato. A good all rounder but needs to be ripe to get the best flavour.
  • Cherry: small and very sweet with an intense flavour. Perfect for salads, pasta sauces or simply roasted with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Plum: baby or full-grown with an oval shape, rich flavour and few seeds. Great for homemade sauces.
  • Green: there are two types of green tomato. One is unripe, quite tart but good for chutney making. The other is a variety that stays green when ripe, has a tangy flavour and is good in salads.
  • Yellow: these ripen to a golden yellow colour and are good in salads, salsas and chutneys.

Tomatoes have the best, sweetest flavour if they've been allowed to ripen on the vine before they've been picked. If you buy under-ripe tomatoes, you can redden them by keeping them in a brown paper bag at room temperature, or on a window sill.

Chilling tomatoes mutes their flavor, so unless they are very ripe, they should be stored at room temperature. If you won't be eating ripe tomatoes for a couple of days, put them in the fridge in a perforated bag, but take them out of the fridge for about 30 minutes before eating.

The health benefits of tomatoes include improved eye sight, good stomach health, reduced blood pressure as well as relief from diabetes, skin problems and urinary tract infections. They can increase digestion, stimulate blood circulation, reduce cholesterol levels, improve fluid balance, protect the kidneys, detoxify the body, prevent premature aging and reduce inflammation and related conditions.

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that is good for the heart and effective against certain cancers. They are packed with vitamins A and C, calcium and potassium.

Cooked tomatoes are actually better for you than raw ones, as more beneficial chemicals are released.

Tomatoes originated in western South America, crossed the Atlantic to Spain in the 16th century with the Conquistadors and finally caught on in northern Europe in the 19th century.

Each year in the small Spanish town of Buñol, they hold a festival called “La Tomatina” which involves around 40,000 people throwing in the region of 150,000 tomatoes at each other. I much prefer to throw my tomatoes into salads or this lovely fiery relish…


2kg of ripe tomatoes* 10 red chillies, chopped
1 tsp Naga chilli powder 10 cloves of garlic, chopped
10cms root ginger, chopped 5 tablespoons of fish sauce
150g raisins 750g light brown sugar
250ml red wine vinegar
  • *substitute with 6 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes, drained of their juice, if preferred.
  • Remove the skins from the tomatoes, de-seed and chop into small pieces.
  • Place in pan with rest of ingredients and stir well.
  • Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally for two hours or until the mixture has reduced to a jam-like consistency.
  • Pour into sterilized jars and store in a cool place out of direct sunlight. This will keep for 12 months.

Perfect for sausages, burgers, bacon butties, most types of cheese or served alongside Indian snacks.

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