Rubies in a World of Green Plants

- Tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum Mill)

If you are a guest in a Dai folk's family, you may taste a special tomato catsup. The local people often have it together with vegetables, bamboo shoots and sticky rice; it is sour, hot and quite delicious. The cooking method of this dish is different from other dishes: they will first grill it ripe over a charcoal fire, take it out and skin it; then, they will put it into the bowl. Afterwards, they will mix it with shallots, ginger, garlic and spicy pepper and proper amount of salt; finally, they will smash the mixture with a hammer to mix them more evenly until it becomes a dish. 

Tomato is a kind of foreign vegetable. It looks like persimmon. Its fruits are red, and they get ripe in June. 

Before the 16th century, tomato was an unknown plant. The native land of tomato was in the Andes Mountain in South America. Tomato is a wild herbal plant; its stalks are straight and have many branches; its leaves are egg-shaped and it blossoms in summer. In spite it has many red fruits, its branches and leaves are full of wools. The wools can secede a sort of juice, which gives off a strange smell. That's why the Indians in its native land believe that it is poisonous, and none of them dares to eat it. 
The story goes: a girl in Peru caught anaemia, also because she was in lovelorn, she wanted to commit suicide by eating the poisonous tomato fruits; however, to her surprise, after she ate the fruits, her face began to turn red; she insisted on eating tomatoes, she not only did not die away, she recovered her health soon. As soon as this story got around, the people in Peru and Mexico began to grow tomatoes. 

In the 16th century, when the Portuguese arrived in America, they also found this special plant. They brought it back to Europe as ornamental plants in their yards. But at that time, people dared not go close to tomato plants to have a closer look, because they believed that tomato has relations with stramonium, they all believed that tomato was poisonous. At that time, the Greek called tomato the "fruit of fox", and it really endured injustice for quite a long time. 

In the middle of the 18th century, a brave fellow in Europe ran the risk of his life and ate a tomato fruit, of course he was safe and sound. But after this, the Europeans began to believe that tomatoes were edible; more, it has a tasty flavor. According to the records in "the Botanical Dictionary" published in 1871: the Italian people ate tomatoes together with garlic, pepper and beef. 

In 1820, there was an American named Robert Johnson; originally he was an unknown fellow, he was giving a tomato-eating performance on the stairs of the municipal building of Salam, New Jersey; from then on, he became famous far and wide together with tomatoes. As a result of his performance and after enduring many injustices, tomato changed from a "poisonous fruit" into a "delicious vegetable". Nowadays, people all believe it is a good vegetable instead of anything poisonous. 

America is among the first countries in popularizing the plantation of tomatoes, and also the country with the largest tomato plantation areas. Its tomato output accounts for nearly half of the country's vegetable output. The Italians also has a sugarplum, and they plant tomatoes widely; more, they sell tomatoes to foreign countries and call it the "ruby in a world of green". Later on, Japan, Netherlands, and New Zealand also begin to plant tomatoes. Tomato was introduced into China at about 1630, but its popularization in China is something of the recent time. Nowadays, tomatoes are planted in all over the world, and it has dyed the world into red. 

Tomato is a vegetable and a fruit. It can be eaten after cooking, and it can also be eaten in fresh. The color, fragrance, and the smell of tomatoes can be preserved very well if they are kept in the fridges or made into canned foods; and people can have tomatoes in off-season if they are kept in the above ways. Tomato pulp is rich in juice, which is sour and sweet, and quite delicious. Tomatoes contain many vitamins, carotin, and tomatins; which have the effects of helping digestion and clearing heat. These elements also have curative effects for stomachaches, kidney illness and high blood pressure. 

Nowadays, cultivated tomato varieties in the world total to more than 4000. America and Britain adopt the method of planting without using earth, and the tomato yield per mu reaches about 50 tons. A tomato plant cultivated by the Japanese can grow 25 months and can yield more than 5000 pieces of fruits. In America, a tomato weighs 3.17 kg, and looks like a small watermelon; it is really the "king of tomatoes". 

In the recent years, in order to cater for the trend of harvesting by machines, the fashion for processing tomatoes into canned foods or traveling foods, all countries in America and Europe tend to cultivate tomato varieties with smaller fruits. The VF-13L variety cultivated by the scientists of California, America, produces round and small fruits. Because they are so small, the fruits are not easily broken, and have very good properties for processing in factories. Besides, it becomes easier for skinning the small fruits and the yields are also very good. The fruits of this tomato variety can get ripe in a few days, plus the spraying of some ethane agent, the ripe time of all the fruits can keep in-phase. 

China has also made some progress in upgrading tomatoes. South China Agricultural Institute crossed the "Hong Ding Jiu" and "Bulgarian No. 10", and cultivated them into a new "Hong Mian" variety. They used "Hong Mian" tomatoes to process canned foods, and its redness exceeded the famous Italian canned tomatoes.

There is a kind of tomato variety in New Zealand. It grows as tall as 1 meter, and it continues to fructify from each April; if it is placed in the greenhouse, it can produce fruits all the year round. An individual tomato plant can yield 27 kg of tomatoes within one year; and the people can eat tomatoes all the year round if this variety is popularized. 

Britain has constructed a tomato-producing factory, which is very large. People can not see soil in the factory, and all the tomato plants are planted in a sponge-like substance. The substance is full of nutritious liquid; the factory uses computers to control the absorption of nutrition by the tomato plants; at the same time, the computers also control the indoor lighting and ventilation equipment. The tomatoes grow very big and fresh; some tomato plants can grow as long as 9 meters, and each plant can produce 35 fruits average. Tomatoes are harvested in all seasons in the factory and the factory is also the largest tomato factory in the world today. 

Tomato plants must be cultivated each year. This is really costly and a waste of time. Japan has an experimental farm, and it cultivates a kind of tomato plant tree, which is as tall as 3 meters with a thickness of 15 cm; one tree can produce over 1000 fruits. This kind of tomato is also planted in the water tanks with fertilizers. After the seedling grow up, the farm workers will support them with brackets. 

For the time being, tomato is one of the most popular vegetables and fruits in the world. "Tomato mixed with sugar", "tomato fried with eggs", and "meat tomato soups" are all popular dishes; tomato salad, tomato sauce, tomato juice and canned tomato can help people to cook various dishes with tomato flavors; the Italian cakes with tomato dumplings has become a world famous fast food in all over the world.