these glorious tomato growing months from June to September,
the best tasting tomatoes are those grown close to home.
Some of the best tomatoes to grace my taste buds were
"volunteers" that popped up in a pile of dirt
behind my house a few years back. They were apparently the
hardy relatives of a garden that was no more.
the 19th century, Europeans referred to tomatoes as
"poisonous apples," according to an informative
article on this topic in a recent issue of Food and
Nutrition. Diners in those days mistakenly blamed tomatoes
for what actually was lead poisoning — caused when the
mild acid in tomatoes leached lead from the pottery dishes
from which they ate their meals.
know that tomatoes are rich in health promoting properties.
They in fact play a big role in the recommended eating
pattern we know as the Mediterranean diet.
here’s a trivia question: Are tomatoes a vegetable or a
fruit? Both are correct. By botanical definition, tomatoes
are fruits — the seed bearing parts of flowering plants.
Since 1893 however, tomatoes have been designated as
vegetables by the U.S. government.
nutritionally, tomatoes are indeed closer to vegetables than
to fruit. They are low in calories (one cup of regular or
cherry tomatoes has about 30 calories) and high in nutrients
including potassium (important for blood pressure control)
and vitamins A and C. Tomatoes are also rich in carotenoids
— natural antioxidant substances such as beta-carotene,
lutein and lycopene.
is the pigment that give tomatoes their rich red color. And
researchers have found many benefits from eating this
compound. At the cellular level, lycopene appears to protect
our body cells from the stresses of everyday living.
Researchers are especially interested in the protective
effects of lycopene and other carotenoids on the prevention
of cancer and other chronic diseases.
cooked? Both are great, say nutrition experts. Either way,
if you eat tomatoes with a source of fat such as olive oil
or avocado, you’ll absorb more of the fat-soluble lycopene.
And believe it not, lycopene from cooked or canned tomatoes
is more available for absorption in our bodies.
way to maintain tomatoes’ fresh flavor? Store them at room
temperature. Cold (less than 55 degrees F.) kills the
flavor, say tomato experts. And here’s something I didn’t
know. According to the Florida Tomato Committee (www.floridatomatoe.org),
we should "always store your tomatoes stem end up.
Leaving a tomato on its shoulders, even for a few days, is
enough to bruise it."
course the best part of tomatoes is eating them. Find some
great recipes at Tomato Wellness (www.tomatowellness.com)
and the California Tomato Growers Association (www.ctga.org).
Better yet, pick one from your garden and pop it in your