Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) are members of the Solanaceae or nightshade family of common vegetables of which potatoes, chili peppers and eggplants, among others, are also members. Originally thought to be poisonous due to the bright red “warning” color, this fruit was cultivated by the Aztecs centuries before the Spanish explorers arrived and introduced it to the world.
If you run across any purple tomatoes in the future, these are genetically engineered designer tomatoes and are filled with antioxidants known as anthocyanins which are commonly found in dark berries such as blackberries and black currants. Scientists used genes from a snapdragon flower, which is where the purple color came from but “human trials” are considered to be far off, and that actually may be a good thing due to them being GMO’s and who knows what lurks in something that was not naturally produced by normal mutation or adaptation.
Cherry tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme) are rather small, about an inch in diameter, or “cherry-sized”, and are usually round and red, although there are some pear-shaped varieties, as well as yellow cherries and they tend to be most popular in the Mediterranean areas.
Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated varieties that were introduced prior to 1940, or are than 50 years old or have been passed down through families for several generations. These are becoming more popular among organic gardeners because they are more flavorful and natural then the hybrid varieties.
The tomatillo, Physalis philadelphica (Physalis ixocarpa) is berry that is known by many common names: tomate tomate verde, miltomate, tomate, tomate de cascara, husk tomato, tomate de fresadilla and others that may incorporate parts of the scientific name. It is a small round berry in the tomato family that is used as a vegetable, although it is actually fruit due to carrying its own tiny seeds. It also was cultivated by the Aztecs. It has a tart, yet sweet quality and is a common ingredient in Central American style sauces.
Unlike tomatoes, tomatillo berries develop inside a thin, semi-transparent calyx or husk that resembles a Japanese paper lantern. When the berry has matured, the paper calyx splits and a green berry is seen. The average tomatillo is about an inch in diameter and weighs approximately 50 g with a juicy pulp.
Tomatillo berries only need to have the husk and stem removed. They do not need to be peeled any further. They do have a bit of a sticky film-like residue under the husk, so rinse them throughly until it is gone.
That being said, people often peel tomatoes, but they are removing a lot of the health benefits by doing so since a peeled tomato will have less calories, less fiber and less vitamins. Commercial tomato skin may or may not have pesticides on it and they may or may not be sprayed with a food grade wax (usually carnauba) to make them look shiny in the store, and to preserve moisture. But the skin was meant to be eaten with the tomato and washing your fruit before eating is always a good idea. Wiping them with vinegar removes the wax, so these issues are alleviated. Buying organic tomatoes solves both issues completely, so eat the skin.