All the information you need to know about tomatoes – from did you know facts, nutritional and medicinal benefits, and buying and storing.
This months in-season food feature is all about the tomato! Eaten all year round, but in peak season right now. You cannot a beat a fresh summer tomato. I can pop cherry tomatoes like candy and will eat large ones like apples. I love them so much.
A little did you know…
Botanically speaking, tomatoes are a fruit and technically a berry since they are pulpy and contain one or more soft seeds. Legally they are a vegetable. In 1893 the Supreme Court ruled the tomato is legally classified as a vegetable since it is used as a vegetable. Makes sense I suppose since they are are the third most common consumed vegetable in the United States, after potatoes and lettuce.
Tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family. They range in size from a small cherry to larger than a grapefruit. Most tomatoes are red, but they could be yellow, green, orange, black, green, purple, or even white. They originated in Central America, but are now grown throughout the world, with Texas, California, Florida, and Ohio being the primary resources in the US.
Tomatoes are superior in lycopene. For men, lycopene has been associated with significant reduction in prostate cancer. Lycopene can also protect against lung and stomach cancer and help reduce the risk of heart attacks. For most people in the Western Hemisphere, tomatoes are the primary source for lycopene. The antioxidant is actually higher in cooked tomato dishes than raw ones.
1 medium tomato (123g)
total fat: 0.2g
carbs: 4.8g (1.5g fiber, 3.2g sugar)
Vine-ripen tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, which is mostly contained in the jelly like substance around the seeds. Although, a tomato grown in a hothouse has only half the amount of vitamin C as a vine-ripened one. Tomatoes have a good source of vitamins A and B, potassium, and phosphorus. They are also rich in sugar, have a little fiber, and contain anti-carcinogenic properties. The antioxidant lutein is also present, which helps promote healthy vision.
Since ripe tomatoes are so fragile, the crop is usually picked and shipped when green. They are then “hard-ripened” with ethylene gas which turns the skin red by eliminating chlorophyll. Kind of a bummer to hear since these tomatoes won’t have the best flavor. To assure the most delicious tomato, purchase from a local farmer or farmers market, during prime harvest season (mid-July to the first frost depending on where you are), or vine-ripened ones. You will be surprised with how much better they taste!!
Look for ones that are firm but give slightly to pressure, and are bright and have a rich aroma. Avoid ones with bruises, cracks, and dark spots. To ripen them, just leave out on the counter for a few days. Once they are ripe, eat immediately and don’t refrigerate since it drains their flavor and makes the texture mealy. (Uhh, I just learned something new!)
Get the most out of them! The anticancer properties of lycopene are especially beneficial when consumed with fat-rich foods. Carotenoids are fat-soluble nutrients so to get maximum absorption of them, eat them with healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, or nuts. Or maybe with cheese…like pizza 😉
Tomato Inspired Recipes: