Tomatoes add a flavour to food and make the food item more interesting and appealing. Have you ever wondered what renders the red colour to these tomatoes? Let us find out...
Everyday Chemistry - Why are tomatoes red?
Tomatoes are a significant ingredient in several food preparations. Whether they are used in a sauce, solid, puree or gravy form, tomatoes are a delicious and juicy treat. When tomatoes are raw, they are green in colour. However, the moment they start ripening they change colour and turn red. Have you ever wondered why this happens? Let us find out...
What renders the red colour to tomatoes?
Tomatoes have the chlorophyll pigment when they are raw and hence they are green in colour. As they start ripening, the pigment lycopene becomes dominant and this is why tomatoes turn red.
Lycopene is a carotenoid and belongs to the same family as beta-carotene. It is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals; especially those derived from oxygen. It is highly unsaturated hydrocarbon and contains 11 conjugated and 2 unconjugated double bonds making it longer than any other carotenoid. Lycopene obtained from plants tends to exist in an all-trans configuration, which is the most thermodynamically stable form. It protects against prostate cancer, breast cancer, atherosclerosis, and other coronary artery diseases.
Also, this pigment reduces LDL or low-density lipoprotein oxidation, which helps reduce cholesterol levels in blood. Preliminary research has also revealed that the chemical properties of lycopene helps reduce the risk of macular degenerative disease, serum lipid oxidation, and cancers of the lung, bladder, cervix, and skin.
Ripening of tomatoes
It is important to let the tomatoes turn red in order to bring out the lycopene pigment, which is why they must be allowed to arrive at the mature stage. The rate at which a tomato turns red depends on the variety and size of tomatoes. Small varieties like a cherry tomato will ripen faster while large varieties will take longer.
Temperature also plays a part in this process. Extremely cold or hot temperatures will not let lycopene and carotene to develop easily. It tends to only show up only between 50 and 85 degrees.
There is nothing like the taste of a fresh bright red tomato salad with a sprinkle of salt to delight your taste buds on a hot summer day. So go get one and reap the juicy benefits!