When you say tomato, what comes to mind? Pizza, pasta sauce, summer salads? To me, those bright red globes are quintessential Italiano summer fruits. But even though the tomato is an essential ingredient in many iconic Italian dishes, it isn’t native to Italy. The tomato originated in the Andes and the Spaniards distributed them throughout Europe where initially, they were regarded with suspicion. When they first arrived in Bel Paese, they were grown as ornamentals, for their beauty.
Today, tomato consumption per capita in Italy is around 60kg per year compared to around 20kg per capita in Australia. Globally, it’s the most important fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) crop with 160 million tons produced in 2011. That’s a lot of pomodori!
My tomatoes are looking beautiful right now. Some plants have grown to almost a metre high, with plenty of flowers. There are a few fruits, but I hope that soon there’ll be lots of red orbs of summeriness!
Toward the end of summer, cooking the sugo di pomodoro (tomato sauce) is a ritual practiced by many Italo-Australian families. The sauce is bottled and stored for use throughout the year. This year, I hope to make my own sugo with some of the tomatoes from my garden.
Historically, the word pomodoro appears to have a number of origins. It was known as pomo di moro – apple of the Moors, as it was a favourite of the Arabs; the French thought the tomato had aphrodisiac qualities and called it pomme d’amour – love apple; another version is the Italian pomo d’oro, which translates to golden apple.
But whichever version you like — if you say tomato, I think Italiano!