Essential reporting in volatile times.

Not a Subscriber yet? Click here to take advantage of All access digital limited time offer $13.95 per month EZ Pay.

Interested in Donating? Click #ISupportLocal for more information on supporting local journalism.

Purple Onion Tomatoes & Potatoes

Tomatoes and potatoes and great when enjoyed separately, but can also be combined to create some tasty dishes.

How many potatoes can you name? What about tomatoes?

You can probably quickly name potatoes like Yukon Gold, Russet and Fingerling, and tomatoes like beefsteak, Big Boy, Roma and cherry. But did you know that there are literally thousands of varieties of both?

It seems quite reasonable the potato is the state vegetable of Idaho, given that state is the top producer of this vegetable in the United States.

The tomato is conflicted. It is the state vegetable of New Jersey and the state fruit and beverage of Ohio. Arkansas named the South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato both the state fruit and state vegetable. The confusion stems from the fact the tomato has seeds and grows from a flowering plant. So, botanically it is classed as a fruit.

The situation was further compounded in 1887 when U.S. tariff laws imposed a duty on vegetables, but not fruits. The status of tomatoes became a matter of legal importance and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Nix v. Hedden that tomatoes were to be considered vegetables, based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use, where they are usually served with dinner and not as a dessert. The court did not reclassify the tomato, so it is still technically a fruit.

From a dietary standpoint, potatoes are an important part of the world’s diet. They are sodium free and contain 45% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin C. The potato has more potassium than bananas and is a good source of fiber. They do contain a great deal of starch, which makes them more like rice, pasta and bread in terms of nutrition. In 2019, American farmers planted almost 970,000 acres of potatoes and harvested about 943,000 of those acres for 42.3 billion pounds of spuds.

Tomatoes originated in the South American Andes Mountains and were first used as a food by the Aztecs in Southern Mexico. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that is good for the heart and effective against certain cancers.

Cooked tomatoes are actually better for you than raw ones, as more beneficial chemicals are released. Tomatoes are also packed with vitamins A and C, calcium and potassium. They are also the centerpiece for the annual La Tomatina festival in Bunol, Spain. Every year, the biggest tomato fight in the world happens there, when some 40,000 people throw 150,000 tomatoes at each other.

This is the time of the year when both potatoes and tomatoes take important places on our family dinner tables. Potato salads, tomato salads, and dozens of other traditional recipes make great use of these favorites.

At The Purple Onion, we started wondering if there were recipes that brought these two together. As it turns out, we found an international sampling of recipes where the potato and tomato pair up for tasty dishes.

While there may be some in Spain who enjoy throwing tomatoes, there are others who would rather pair them with potatoes for Patatas Bravas, essentially potatoes cooked in a spicy sauce and served as an appetizer, or tapas. The name of the recipe roughly translates as “fierce” or “angry” potatoes, but these potatoes are only as spicy as you make them. This recipe features tomato sauce, quite a bit of Tabasco and some smoked paprika.

Try an Italian version of the potato-tomato mash-up with Potatoes with Tomatoes and Basil. Taking advantage of the abundance of fresh basil this time of year, this dish is bright tasting and colorful. It would be delicious with grilled chicken or salmon.

The Roasted Potatoes and Tomatoes recipe is a simple roasted recipe that uses rosemary and smashed garlic cloves to spice up the dish. Everything goes into the oven at once with this simple-to-prepare dish.

Looking for a cooler side dish? Try the Potato, Corn and Tomato Salad with Basil. You cook the potatoes in a pot of boiling water, then use the same water to cook the corn. Everything goes into the serving bowl and you’re ready to go!

If you have a hankering for a curry-flavored dish, here’s a recipe for Cumin-scented Potatoes and Tomatoes that’s tasty and, unlike many long-simmering stews, takes a short time to make.

Allan Hathaway is the owner of The Purple Onion and WV Marketplace at Charleston’s Capitol Market. For more information, visit the web pages at and; call The Purple Onion at 304-342-4414 and WV Marketplace at 304-720-2244. Email Allan at