It is widely believed that the tomato, Lycopersicon exculentum, was first domesticated in Mexico, where a variant of the wild cherry tomato was brought into cultivation.
Europeans were introduced to the tomato in the mid-16th century, and generally reacted with fear and scorn, due largely to the tomato’s membership in the family Solanacea, which includes many poisonous species such as the deadly nightshade.
The Italians, however, soon embraced the tomato, dubbing it pomi d’oro (golden apple) and adopting it into their cuisine.
The French gave this new fruit an even more romantic name,pomme d’amour (love apple)
Today the tomato is known as the pomodoro in Italy, and al lover the world is the symbol of Mediterranean Cuisine.
During the beginning of the last century, throughout the month of August, one could encounter long tables set on curbsides throughout many areas of Southern Italy, these tables covered with “cracked” tomatoes and large containers sat alongside them holding the “tomato juice”.
Even nowadays in Southern Italy, housewives still make their own tomato juice (passata) during the month of August just like they did over 100 years ago.
Initially, only San Marzano type “fiaschella” quality tomatoes were used when making strained (passata) tomatoes, and only after being meticulously washed they were “cracked” in boiling water, skinned and crushed. The outcome was a juice that was poured in glass bottles along with fragrant basil leaves, sealed with a cork and “shaken”. Afterwards the bottles were submerged for over an hour in boiling water in order to sterilize them thus allowing them to be conserved for a long period of time.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century, two different areas of Italy started processing tomatoes on an industrial level: one of these areas was Southern Italy (Campania, Apulia and Sicily), the other area was towards Northern Italy in the Emilia Romagna region (Parma and Piacenza).
The industrial revolution that followed allowed a drastic change to occur that improved the processing method of straining tomatoes and changed what was predominantly a household ritual into an industry that soon became one of the biggest agrarian product industries in Italy.
Today Italy is a leader country in exportation throughout the globe of products that are extracted from tomatoes.
The characteristics of the fruit are: red berry consistings of seeds within a fleshy pericarp developed from an ovary.
Fruits of L. esculentum have two several carpels. there is extreme variability of fruit characters such as size, shape, exterior colour of mature and immature fruit, and interior flesh color.
Modern manufacturing processing for peeled tomatoes requires that the tomatoes are rigorously washed in large basins in order to eliminate all foreign substances. Immediately after this process, the tomatoes are steamed with a 90 °C vapor that forces the skin to peel off.
Afterwards, they pass trough a conveyor belt and are sorted. Damaged, small tomatoes and remaining skin residues are eliminated with this process. The steamed product is then placed in tin plates, filled with their natural juice, vacuum packed and pasteurized. The pasteurization process eliminates all the microorganisms that could change the quality and taste of the product.
In the manufacturing of tomato paste the “break” is a very important stage. This is where the tomatoes are heated very rapidly. Tomato paste can either be hot break or cold break paste. Hot break tomato paste preserves viscosity or “thickness”, but at a slight cost of flavor. Cold break paste preserves virtually all the flavor, but at the cost of viscosity.
It has to do with enzymes: polymethylesterase,polygalacturonase, and lipoxygenase. Polymethylesterase and polygalacturonase act to break down a chemical called pectin. Pectin is a naturally occurring compound that helps to bind the cells of a tomato together. In the hot break process (hot break refers to heating the tomatoes to approximately 110 degrees C), these “pectic enzymes” are inactivated, inhibiting the breakdown of pectin, creating a more viscous product. However, the enzyme lipoxygenase (vital to flavor) is also inactivated in the hot break process. In cold break tomato paste (heated to approximately 90 degrees C), lipoxygenase “survives,” while polymethylesterase and polygalacturonase are not inactivated, bad for viscosity but good for flavor.
Essentially, the “break” is a large cooker, where tomatoes are heated to a closely-monitored temperature.
The paste is obtained when the product is passed through evaporators. The evaporators use heat to evaporate water from the tomato product, increasing the thickness of the evolving tomato paste. After going through the evaporators, the product is sterilized by increasing its temperature with steam injectors and held for a few minutes to kill harmful microorganisms.
After passing through the evaporators and steam injectors, the product needs to be quickly cooled so that it can be packaged. A flash cooler utilizes a hypobaric process (low atmospheric pressure) to quickly cool the paste.
Consumers growing needs has brought us to produce different varieties such as diced, chopped and mashed allowing us to satisfy everyone’s needs worldwide.
For mashed, chopped and diced products we tend to use tomatoes with less seeds but keep the same high standards in selecting the tomatoes as we do for our peeled and paste products.
A great source of vitamins and minerals
A 1994 Italian study showed that simply eating tomatoes more than seven times a week reduces the risks of developing colon cancer by 60%. Another study, conducted by Harvard University in 1995, showed that the consumption of tomatoes, including it in the form of a sauce, was an important factor in the reduction of prostate cancer in men aged 40 to 70 years. We know that in the tomatoes we find the highest concentration of lycophene, which is the main ingredient in the prevention of cancer.
The nutritional values of the tomato exactly match our actual nutritional needs. Tomatoes are hypo caloric: they contain 19 kilocalories per 100 grams and are rich in minerals and trace elements. They contain vitamins C, A and E. They are also excellent anti-oxidants. It is also interesting to note that fresh or freshly pressed tomatoes are effective fatigue suppressors since they accelerate the production of blood sugar and, by doing so, also provide a boost of energy .