Tomato varieties and cultivation
The scientific name for the tomato is Solanum lycopersicum, and its name comes from an ancient Mexica language where the fruit was known as tomatl. Their flavour comes from simple sugars and organic acids, which lend them their characteristic sweet and tangy flavour.
Tomato cultivation is spread globally and the varieties grown vary in size, from cherry tomatoes (between 1 and 2 centimetres in diameter) to beef tomatoes, which can exceed 10 centimetres in diameter.
Different varieties of tomato
Aussie, Black cherry, Brandywine, Pear cherry, Green sausage, Kumato, Manitoba, Muchamiel, Raf, Girona pear, Sun sugar, Valencian… there are many varieties of tomato grown.
One of the most characteristic tomatoes of Almería is the Raf tomato, which is produced from the artificial selection of traditional tomatoes, and whose name comes from the Spanish abbreviation of “resistant to Fusarium”. With maturation occurring from the inside out, the Raf tomato has a characteristic sweet flavour due to the balance of its sugars and acidity. These sugars are produced by the plant counterbalancing the salinity of the water, which must be carefully controlled.
Over the last few years, snack tomatoes have had the greatest increase in demand and are a regular in Agrosol Export’s annual plan. To give you an idea of their popularity, it’s expected that demand for snack tomatoes will increase up to 50% in Germany and the United Kingdom over the next decade. They are very small and refreshing fruits, ideal for healthy snacking, using whole in salads, or using as a garnish or decoration on meals. They’re also ideal for getting children used to eating fruit and veg, since they already come ready to eat.
Optimum conditions for growing tomatoes
The optimum temperature for growing tomatoes is between 20 and 30 degrees centigrade during the day, and dips to below 18 degrees at night. Higher temperatures affect the fertilised ovaries and consequently the correct development and growth of the fruit. Very low temperatures affect the growth of the plant in general. You have to be particularly careful with temperatures during the flowering period, so as to ensure fertilisation. Humidity should be at a level of around 70%.
Our greenhouses in Almería are blessed with the famous Andalusian sun, which is crucial to tomato growth because they require very bright conditions. Tomato plants do not cope well in waterlogged conditions, so proper draining of the soil is also important.
This season, Agrosol Export are growing three types of tomato: piccolo tomatoes, baby plums and vine tomatoes.
- Piccolo Tomato:This is a very aromatic and flavourful small to medium sized cherry tomato, and is picked loose for the consumer. It has a somewhat sweet and peppery flavour, is fleshy and smooth on the palate and has a slight crunch.
- Baby Plum Tomato: This is an oval-shaped mini pear tomato with satiny-smooth skin, and is dark red during its ripening period and at consumption. They are either found on branches of 6 or 8 fruits, or loose, and have an intensely sweet and lightly peppery flavour. They are a perfect snack for our brand Cherrytos&Go, and have been a star product amongst our consumers ever since
- Vine Tomato: This is our most traditional tomato with the best natural fragrance and freshness. They are grown at Agrosol with the utmost care and attention to get tomatoes “that really taste like tomato” and give you the best sensory experience. There is a wide range of vine tomatoes, such as Breton, Canarian, garland, Muchamiel, Marmande, Magda, Alborán, Rambo, Monserrat, Pinton…
History: Hernán Cortés, the first importer of tomatoes
The origin of tomatoes traces back to different parts of Mesoamerica, where there is evidence that the Mexicas and Aztecs grew them. In pre-Hispanic times they ate a type of green tomato, but following the arrival of the Spanish, red tomatoes overtook the green ones in popularity thanks to their more appetising colour and ability to stay fresh for longer after being picked.
After the conquest of the Aztec city Tenochtitlán (now Mexico City), it is thought that Hernán Cortés brought small yellow tomatoes across to Europe. One of the reasons that led us to believe this is that the first tomatoes to be popularised in Europe were yellow. In fact, the Italian word for tomato, “pomodoro”, comes from “pomi d’oro” (golden apple), referring to the yellow colour of these tomatoes. Today, red tomatoes are the most globally widespread.
In Great Britain and its colonies, tomatoes were considered unfit for human consumption for many years. This was thanks to a misconception made by John Gerard, one of the first people to write about the tomato. Gerard thought that the fruit was toxic because of the presence of toxic compounds in the leaves and stems. This idea didn’t last and nowadays tomatoes are extremely popular across the English-speaking world, which Agrosol Export can confirm, since the United Kingdom is one of our lead markets.
Tomatoes in the kitchen: recipes using tomato
Tomatoes are an essential ingredient in our kitchens, so we have brought you 3 recipes that let you use them as part of a delicious and healthy meal:
Gazpacho is a cold soup made from tomatoes and other raw vegetables. Because it is such a widely made dish, the recipe for gazpacho can vary between families (with cucumber, without cucumber, with bread, without bread…). We have brought you a quick and refreshing recipe.
- Ingredients: One kilo of ripe tomatoes, 100g of green pepper, 100g of cucumber, 100g of onion, one clove of garlic, 3 tablespoons of oil, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, one small spoon of salt.
- Methods: Wash all the ingredients well, peel the onion and garlic and chop into small pieces, and remove the seeds and stalk from the pepper. Take all the ingredients apart from the oil, vinegar and salt, and mix in a blender. Once it is well blended, add oil, vinegar and salt to taste.
- Serving suggestion: Cold, always serve cold. The recipe is designed so that you can drink the gazpacho. To do this, you will need to strain it through a fine sieve and let it chill in the fridge. If you want to eat the gazpacho like a soup, you can add bread to thicken it. Gazpacho is great for using up stale bread!
TOMATO ON TOAST
With various regional varieties, tomato on toast is a traditional dish in Mediterranean cuisine. Pa amb tomàquet, pa amb tomata, pa amb oli… It has many different names across the Mediterranean and in Andalucía it is called Media con tomate. Whatever its name, it makes a delicious breakfast, snack or accompaniment to a main meal.
- Ingredients: Ripe tomatoes, bread, garlic, olive oil and salt.
- Methods: Cut the bread in half lengthways (Media) or cut into slices. Toast the bread and rub with garlic to give it flavour, then add the tomato by rubbing it on the bread. Lastly, drizzle with oil and salt to taste.
- Serving suggestion: If the tomato isn’t ripe enough, you can blend it beforehand. In Andalucía, the flesh of the tomato is usually removed before adding the oil and ham is added on top.
Tomatoes aren’t just for summer; they are also great for making sauces. This fantastic soup can be eaten hot:
- Ingredients: One kilo of ripe tomatoes, one red pepper, one clove of garlic, one onion, one carrot, a litre of water, one tablespoon of sugar, salt and pepper.
- Methods: Wash the ingredients well, peel the onion, garlic and carrot, and remove the seeds and stalk from the pepper. Dice the onion, red pepper, carrot and garlic. Put some olive oil in a pan and add all the chopped ingredients. Simmer on a low heat starting with the onion, adding the rest of the ingredients and finishing with the tomatoes and sugar. When it reaches the consistency of a purée, season with the salt and pepper and blend.
- Serving suggestion: This healthy and nutritious soup is to be consumed hot and can be served with strips of fried bread, but bear in mind that the calorie content will increase if you do…
Tomato production exceeds more than 100 million tonnes worldwide. The leading global producer of tomatoes is China, where 85% of production is bound for export, mainly in the form of paste or tomato purée. Other big tomato producers are India, the United States and Turkey. In the last 50 years, the average global yield has increased per surface area, reaching around 36 tonnes of tomatoes per hectare.
Snack tomatoes, a valuable export
Snack tomatoes have become the most successful, with pear cherry, round cherry and cocktail tomatoes increasing in popularity across the British and German markets. In these countries, almost a third of tomatoes consumed are snack tomatoes, and this figure could increase to 50% within the next decade.
In developed countries, tomato consumption is increasing whilst production is declining. One clear case is the United States, whose consumption has increased to around £1 billion in the last decade, but whose production has decreased by around £700 million. This trend, which is common in many developed countries, is widening the market for producers like Agrosol, who are dedicated to the exportation of fresh produce.