You’ve seen them in most supermarkets. They’re called Roma tomatoes: egg to pear-shaped, with a chewy flesh and a sweet taste, Romas are a type of plum tomatoes, known primarily for making great tomato sauce.
The Roma tomato is, in fact, among the most common types for producing tomato sauce, and quite a popular one for that matter.
Know Your Roma – facts and history
Although tomatoes go as far back as the Aztecs, who are deemed to have developed the original fruit, Roma tomatoes were introduced much more recently.
During the early stages of the industrial agriculture in the United States, when shipping across longer distances became possible and the demand for fruits and vegetables grew, so did the need to harvest more durable produce.
Roma tomatoes came about as the result of a mutation in genes, namely the SUN mutation that gives the fruit its elongated shape. It is known that SUN arose in Europe, but it’s uncertain whether or not it came from Italy. Nevertheless, when introduced in the United States, the fruit adapted quite well and quickly became one of people’s ideal choices for canning, dehydrating, salsas and sauces.
Roma tomatoes particularities
Roma tomatoes have thick skin that makes them more resistant to environmental damage and thus less likely to crack, which is one of the reasons they were bred that way.
There are two main advantages of thick skin when it comes to Roma tomatoes:
- One, a thick skin helps with preserving the tomatoes more efficiently and it also peels off more easily.
- Second, it holds better when the fruit is dried or dehydrated.
The Romas are known as a sauce type tomato precisely because of their meaty flesh and the low moisture content, characteristics that make them ideal for cooking into a thick paste or sauce.
Although not particularly sweet or flavorful, they benefit from a more intensified taste when cooked, the cooking down process usually enhancing their slightly sweet flavor.
Roma tomatoes nutritional value and benefits
Bright red, Roma tomatoes are rich in lycopene, the inherent tomato pigment that is also a powerful antioxidant known to protect against cancer and lower cholesterol.
Lycopene is a carotene and carotenoid pigment, one of the free-radical fighting antioxidants that destroy free radicals. Tomatoes, Roma tomatoes particularly are one of the best sources of lycopene, one serving size of tomato juice (250ml or 1 cup) containing 25.0mg.
Note: It’s when tomatoes are cooked and paired with fat that lycopene levels increase, thus the best way to make the most of Roma tomatoes, nutritionally speaking, is to consume them cooked – for example, pasta with marinara sauce is a staple food to add to diets for increasing lycopene.
In addition to lycopene, Roma tomatoes contain a decent amount of potassium, fiber, iron and B vitamins.
How to use Roma tomatoes
There are many applications to Roma tomatoes in a diet.
- Although mostly used for canning and sauces, Roma tomatoes are great for adding to salads and omelets.
- When dried, they make a wonderful addition to bread dough and sandwiches, either vegetarian or meaty.
- Roma tomato smoothies and fresh juices can be incorporated into a weight-loss diet. The juice can also be canned for all-year use.
- The meaty flesh makes a perfect tomato soup that can be prepared according to taste and preferences: sweet, spicy, garlicky etc.
- Roma tomatoes also compliment meat dishes and stews very well, Italians often flavoring dishes with either fresh or canned tomatoes.
- Sun or oven-dried Roma tomatoes can be used as pizza topping.
- They can also be eaten raw.