Is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable? Is it the Tomato?
Every month, 50,000 people query Google, asking if the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. Fortunately, the Encyclopedia Britannica answers quite definitively: “Tomatoes are fruits that are considered vegetables by nutritionists.”

Cooked or raw, as a sauce, a juice, or a paste, the tomato is incredibly popular all over the world, with over 20,000 different varieties and at least 170m tonnes produced annually.

The tomato is one of the best-known food ingredients. The French referred to the tomato as pommes d’amour, or love apples, as they thought them to have stimulating aphrodisiacal properties. The English word tomato comes from the Spanish word, tomate. The tomato is native to western South America and Central America. It came to Africa via some combination of “invaders, missionaries, explorers, and traders” and was found throughout the continent by the late 19th century.

The tomato is beloved all over the world and has inspired its festival, La Tomatina which takes place every year in the small Spanish town of Buñol, and features over 40,000 people pelting each other with tomatoes

If the Chilli pepper is the Queen of Africa, then Tomatoes are the undisputed King. Tomatoes are added to many African dishes such as tomato stew, jollof rice, African cabbage stew, fried egg, yam sauce, vegetable soup, chicken or beef stew, chakalaka, Sukuma wiki, and lots more.

Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, vitamin K, and antioxidants, and have proved to have astonishingly vigorous penetrative qualities so that it is as close to being ubiquitous in the kitchens of the world as any plant food.  They are also low in calories and contain lots of a powerful antioxidant called lycopene, which has been linked to several health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and some cancers. It is also believed that tomatoes are beneficial in fighting cardiovascular disease (with heart attacks and strokes being the most common causes of death in the world today), preventing cancer, and maintaining skin health.

In many West African countries, tomato is the staple for many recipes as is also visible in increasing frequency in cookbooks and restaurant menus. Tomato provides tangy, floral, sweet flavour and also a savoury taste which provides depth in food. It is rich in a substance called lycopene which gives it the red color. It helps protect the health, improves vision, boosts digestive health, protects against cancer, guards skin health, and helps with diabetes management.

Whether fresh, tinned, sun-dried, pureed into a passata, or squeezed into juice, the humble tomato is one of the most versatile ingredients you have in your kitchen. Although they are often not the star of the show, tomatoes and their sweet, zingy, sometimes acidic flavor play an integral role in a myriad of dishes.

Its application across the region is a good representation of how much Africans have embraced the tomato. It forms a base used while making soups and sauces, jollof rice, and many other local recipes. South Africa’s vegetable relish, Chakalaka satisfies both the tomato-loving vegans providing a gluten-free and delicious sauce. It is served with bread, stews, or braai.

In West Africa, where most people love the rich tomato redness in many meals, it is included in an array of local dishes such as pepper soup, Ofada sauce, tomato soup which goes down beautifully with crusty bread or pasta. It is also made into tomato paste and purées, and is a functional, easy-to-access ingredient in many African kitchens. Other recipes include Gnocchi with tomatoes and basil, potato wedges, or fries with spicy tomato sauce- a rich tomato sauce embellished in a variety of spices and seasonings, which can also be served as a part of a barbeque spread. We have also seen consumers using tomato paste with different flavors, such as smokey Jollof tomato paste, Onion Pepper tomato paste and Crayfish flavour paste.

Welcome to our tenth edition, and our feature of the ubiquitous ‘vegefruit’, tomato!

Based on the cooking techniques and consumer insights, Freddy Hirsch has created a new line of flavoured tomato seasonings that can be used in soups, stews, salads, and snack applications. You heard it here first! Whatever your preference there is a seasoning just for you: Chilli Sundried tomato seasoning, Cooked Tomato Jollof seasoning; Wood Fire Tomato Pizza seasoning; Chicken and Ripe + Fruity Tomato seasoning, and Fried Tomato and African Basil seasoning. We also created a flavour system providing a profile of tomato paste in finished applications, thus allowing for reduced tomato paste usage.

Add a splash of umami richness to your year with Freddy Hirsch’s tomato seasoning, as we welcome you to the tenth edition of our ‘A Taste of Africa’ newsletter!

Kojo Brifo
Managing Director, Freddy Hirsch Nigeria


The Flavour of the Month

Our flavour for the month is the Tomato seasoning, a rich base with its sweet, umami, zingy, sometimes acidic flavor playing an integral role in a myriad of dishes in Africa.

Tomato plays an important role in the food and spice industry today. It is a good source of potassium, vitamin A, K1, C Folate-B9, antioxidants, and has proved to have astonishingly vigorous penetrative qualities so that it is as close to being ubiquitous in the kitchens of the world as any plant food.

Find out more about our Tomato seasoning here

Source African Flavours without FX exposure

Our Chief Executive Officer, Kojo Brifo spoke on the FX challenges many Africa-based companies have and the significant currency management challenges that limit commercial opportunities for many business operators playing on the continent. According to him, without backward integration and supply chain resilience, many manufacturers are one crisis away from their products disappearing from store shelves, due to sourcing problems. He urged food companies to design their supply and production chains for resilience by sourcing ingredients and spices locally.

You can read this here.


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