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Tomatoes and Tomato Sauces

The tomato is now grown worldwide for its edible fruits, with thousands of cultivars having been selected with varying fruit types, and for optimum growth in differing growing conditions.

Cultivated tomatoes vary in size from tomberries, about 5mm in diameter, through cherry tomatoes, about the same 1–2 centimetres (0.4–0.8 in) size as the wild tomato, up to beefsteak tomatoes 10 centimetres (4 in) or more in diameter.

The most widely grown commercial tomatoes tend to be in the 5–6 centimetres (2.0–2.4 in) diameter range. Most cultivars produce red fruit; but a number of cultivars with yellow, orange, pink, purple, green, black, or white fruit are also available.

Tomatoes grown for canning and sauces are often elongated, 7–9 centimetres (3–4 in) long and 4–5 centimetres (1.6–2.0 in) diameter; they are known as plum tomatoes, and have a lower water content.

A plum tomato, also known as a processing tomato or paste tomato, is a type of tomato bred for sauce and packing purposes. They are generally oval or cylindrical in shape, with significantly fewer seed compartments than standard round tomatoes (usually only two) and a generally higher solid content, making them more suitable for processing.

Plum tomatoes are also sometimes favored by cooks for use during the tomato off-season, as they are generally considered more amenable to handling and are therefore available in a state closer to ripe than other supermarket tomatoes.

A tomato sauce is any of a very large number of sauces made primarily out of tomatoes, usually to be served as part of a dish (rather than as a condiment). Tomato sauces are common for meat and vegetables, but they are perhaps best known as sauces for pasta dishes.

Tomatoes have a rich flavour, low liquid content, very soft flesh which breaks down easily, and the right composition to thicken up into a sauce when they are cooked (without the need of thickeners like roux). All of these qualities make them ideal for simple and appealing sauces.

The simplest tomato sauces consist just of chopped tomato flesh (with the skins and seeds optionally removed), cooked in a little olive oil and simmered until it loses its raw flavour, and seasoned with salt.

Water (or another, more flavourful liquid such as stock or wine) is often added to keep it from drying out too much. Onion and garlic are almost always sweated or sautéed at the beginning before the tomato is added.

Other seasonings typically include basil, oregano, parsley, and possibly some spicy red pepper or black pepper. Ground or chopped meat is also common.