This month France’s Department of Agriculture is shining a light on the humble tomato, dubbing it ‘the star of summer’
It’s tomato season in France and this juicy little fruit (yep, it’s actually a berry, even though we treat it like a vegetable!) is at its very best. From Marmande to beef to cherry, there are dozens of varieties around. Here are 10 things about the tomato you may not know…
- The tomato arrived in France in the 16th century after it was discovered in South America, where the original wild version yielded tomatoes the size of peas.
- In Europe, it was originally used in gardens purely as an ornamental plant – Solanum lycopersicum, to give it its Latin name. People were unsure as to how safe it was as botanists found it to be related to the poisonous belladonna.
- The word tomato – or tomate in French – comes from the Aztec word tomati, meaning swelling fruit.
- There are about 15,000 varieties of tomato in the world. In France, the most popular are Marmande, beef, cocktail and cherry.
- Some 549,771 tonnes of tomatoes were produced in France in 2018. Worldwide, the figure was 182m tonnes.
- The main tomato-growing regions of France are Brittany, Provence-Alpes Côte-d’Azur and the Loire.
- French households consume nearly 14kg of tomatoes every year.
- The full tomato season in France is June, but earlier and later varieties of tomatoes can be found on market stalls from May right through to September.
- Tomatoes are 95 per cent water so don’t bring much to the party nutritionally except for a small amount of vitamin C.
- Stay away from the fridge! Tomatoes keep best – and retain their flavour better – at room temperature. Chilling them destroys the flavour permanently. Pop them in the fruit bowl with the other fruits.