Jul 052011

TomatoesThe Tantalizing Tomato

Tomatoes are one of the most popular food items in the typical American diet; with the BLT holding a proud place since the 1930’s, yet few realize the powerful health and nutrition-promoting benefits of this bright red fruit.  Or wait –is it a vegetable?  In 1893, the nutritious tomato had its day in court–the Supreme Court. Due to tariffs placed on tomatoes imported from the West Indies, they were the subject of a Supreme Court decision and were officially labeled a vegetable.  Originating in Central America and cultivated by the Aztecs, the tomato is now grown world wide and consumed in many diverse ways.  Whichever way you slice them, the tomato is a superfood packed with plenty of disease fighting nutrients.


What is the Nutrition in Tomatoes?

Weighing in at about 40 calories per cup, tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. A single tomato can provide about 40% of the daily vitamin C requirement. It also contains vitamin A and potassium, as well as iron. The generous amounts of vitamin A aid in preventing macular degeneration and night blindness. Potassium plays a vital role in maintaining nerve health, and iron is essential for maintaining normal blood health.

Tomatoes also yield a high concentration of the antioxidant lycopene, known to dramatically lower the risk from certain forms of cancer and heart disease.  TIP: Nutritional researchers have found that bioavailability improves when the fruit is heated.

Regular consumption of tomatoes has proved to decrease the levels of LDL (the bad cholesterol) and triglycerides in the blood. These lipids are the key culprits in cardiovascular diseases and lead to deposition of fats in the blood vessels.According to the studies of the American Medical Association, daily consumption of tomatoes decreases the oxidative stress in type 2 diabetes.  Frequent tomato eaters have fewer urinary tract infections, and a reduced risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure). Tomatoes also help purify the blood, and improve the texture and color of the skin.  This is one powerful vegetable!

Common varieties of tomatoes, and tips on how to use them:tomato

Globe Tomatoes –  Tradionally, this tomato is the most uniform in size and rounded in shape of all the tomato varieties. It is medium in size and provides a somewhat mild flavor.  Grown as a red, yellow, or green tomato, they are most often used as a complement to many food dishes.  This tomato may also be referred to as a beefsteak or slicer, due to its common use in salads, sandwiches, and burgers.

Cherry Tomatoes – These tomatoes belong to the Cluster variant, and tend to be much sweeter and juicier than the larger varieties, such as Globe tomatoes  These are small, round, two-celled tomatoes that also include the type known as currants. They range in size from one to two inches in diameter. Cherry tomatoes come in many colors. Sun Gold, Honeybunch, Italian Ice, Sweet100, and Jolly are all examples of cherry tomatoes. A favorite use is to cut them in half and roast them with olive oil and garlic until caramelized.  Add to just about any dish, top your pizza, or try stuffing them with pesto or fresh mozzarella for a great summer hors d’oeuvre.

Heirloom Tomatoes – An heirloom tomato (also called heritage tomato) is an open-pollinated (non-hybrid) heirloom cultivar of tomato. Heirloom tomatoes have become increasingly popular and more readily available in recent years, and are gaining in popularity with gourmet chefs.  This is because heirloom tomatoes come in a large variety of shapes and colors.  If you think tomatoes are tasteless, you need to give heirlooms a try. The rich tapestry of colors, the diversity and depth of flavor, and the general beauty of the tomatoes provide an experience that your average grocery store tomato just can’t match.

Roma Tomatoes – These are the least juicy of all tomatoes. Because they are thick and contain fewer seeds than other tomato variants, Roma tomatoes are a favorite for pasta sauces. Roma tomatoes are the epitome of a true, American paste tomato. Their dense meaty flesh, low moisture content, and few seeds make them ideal for processing into sauces, paste, ketchup (catsup) or canning.

Pear Tomatoes – Another member of the Cluster tomato variant, Pear tomatoes get their name from their shape, which resembles a pear. They are only the size of a Cherry tomato, but without the high juice levels, and milder in flavor.  They are available in several colors, which include red, yellow or orange, and are also known as the teardrop. These are great as a stand alone salad tossed with some olive oil, and fresh basil, or on a crostini.

Grape Tomatoes Almost an overnight sensation, the grape tomato was originally introduced as an exotic item in upscale grocery stores.  It has become extremely popular for both produce growers and customers alike. Producers benefit from the grape tomato’s hearty skin and high yield per plant, while customers enjoy the enhanced sweetness and convenient size.  Grape tomatoes have a sweet flavor, a firm texture, and less juice; so there’s no need to worry about any squirting when you bite into one. Averaging between one-half and three-quarters of an inch in length, they’re perfect for popping whole into your mouth like candy.

While the conventional red tomato is a staple in most meals, spicing it up a bit with more exotic varieties of tomatoes can add flair to your salads and other dishes.  Look for Pink Accordions, White Currants, and Green Zebras to spice things up.  Depending on what zone you’re living in, tomatoes should be in full stream by mid July, so don’t forget to throw them on the grill!  Click here to find out how to remove tomato stains.

How to store tomatoes?

Tomatoes that are not yet ripe are optimally stored at room temperature uncovered, out of direct sunlight, until ripe. In this environment, they have a shelf life of 3 to 4 days. When ripe, they should be used within 1 to 2 days.  Tomatoes should only be refrigerated when well ripened, but this will affect flavor.

Depending on what zone you’re living in, it might not be too late to plant. Check out this link from wikiHow and get growing NOW.  Maturity is 55-85 days.

As for me, I still think it’s a fruit

tomato sauce recipe

Italian-style Tomato Sauce Recipe

Click and enjoy this simple tomato sauce recipe to complement all of your favorite pasta dishes.

  One Response to “The Tantalizing Tomato”

  1. […] of this bright red fruit. Or wait –is it a vegetable? In 1893, the nutritious …More: The Tantalizing TomatoRelated posts:National Fruit and Vegetable MonthNational Fruit and Vegetable MonthNewline Digital […]

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