T for Tomato

Tomatoes are members of the nightshade family, a plant family with known toxic compounds. Due to their history and association with more deadly member of the nightshade family tomatoes were slow to gain acceptance as a food crop. While tomatoes themselves are fine to eat, the leaves and stems of the plant are considered toxic.

Whatever cuisine, wherever in the world today, tomatoes are a part of that. It is amazing to consider that it was not used in the northeastern states of the US until about 1835, though it was used as food in Louisiana as early as 1812.

The wild species originated in the Andes Mountains of South America, most likely in Peru and Ecuador, and is thought to have been domesticated in pre-Columbian Mexico. Wild tomato plants still grow in the Andes and support a large genetic diversity.

The tomato was introduced to Europe by the Spanish in the early 16th century, and the Spanish and Italians seem to have been the first Europeans to adopt it as a food. In France and northern Europe the tomato was initially grown as an ornamental plant and was regarded with suspicion as a food because botanists recognized it as a relative of the poisonous belladonna and deadly nightshade. Indeed, the roots and leaves of the tomato plant are poisonous and contain the neurotoxin solanine.

Tomatoes were introduced to North America from Europe. Thomas Jefferson is known to have raised them at Monticello in 1781. It did not attain widespread popularity in the United States until the early 20th century. The plant is now grown commercially throughout the world.

Tomato plants are droopy by nature, especially when loaded with the weight of their fruit. So they are grown staked, tied, or caged or on trellises. They grow many branches and need to be pruned to keep them in order.

The five-petaled flowers are yellow and clustered. Tomatoes come in all sizes, varying from half an inch to over 3-4 inches in diameter. Also, they come in many colors like red, scarlet, orange, or yellow, most commonly. Green and purple varieties also exist, but are not that common.

And they vary in shape from almost spherical to oval and elongate to pear-shaped. Each fruit contains at least two cells of small seeds surrounded by jellylike pulp.

Tomato plants require relatively warm weather and sunlight. In cooler climates, it is grown mainly in hothouses.

According to some scholars, the tomato was at first taken to be a kind of eggplant, of which it is a close relative, belonging to the same nightshade family. 

Tomatoes are commonly eaten raw in salads, served as a cooked vegetable, used as an ingredient of various prepared dishes, and pickled. Additionally, a large percentage of the world’s tomato crop is processed and sold in the form of canned tomatoes, tomato juice, ketchup, puree, paste, and sun-dried tomatoes or as dehydrated pulp.

In addition to being a good source of vitamin C, they are also rich in antioxidants like the phytochemical lycopene. 

The soup of the day today is a tomato bisque, rich and flavored with goat cheese. 

Tomato Bisque with Goat Cheese


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 2 springs of fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes, more to taste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces fresh goat cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat the olive oil in a largish pot over medium-high heat. 
  • Add the onion and celery, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant.
  • Add the ginger and garlic, and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Pour in the broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil while whisking constantly.
  • Add the sugar, salt, chili flakes, and cayenne, if using.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes or until flavors have melded. 
  • Using an immersion blender, purée soup to the desired consistency.
  • Ladle into bowls and top with goat cheese, swirling the cheese gently into the soup. Serve warm.

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