Whether you are in the "it's a fruit" or "it's a vegetable" camp, we can all agree that tomatoes are delicious, nutritious and quite versatile. Available year round in our grocery stores, tomatoes thrive during warm weather, so expect an even wider variety available in the coming months.
Despite it's auspicious beginnings, the tomato is now one of the world's most popular produce items with more than 4,000 varieties and 60 million tons produced worldwide.
The tomato is chock full of vitamins and powerful antioxidants and is a proven cancer fighter, heart disease stopper and anti-aging proponent to name just a few of it's benefits. So in an effort to celebrate this unassuming hero among us, we have deemed this week as "Tomato Week!"
Just a quick little primer before you dive head-first into tomato-mania:
If you aren't picking them directly from a garden, remember the three F's for choosing a great tomato:
Fresh: You want a tomato that is fresh. Make sure the color is good, the tomato is plump and the leaves are still vibrant (not all brown and droopy).
Firm: You want your tomato to have smooth, taut skin that feels solid when you pick it up. Squishy tomatoes are past their prime and should be left on the shelf.
Flawless: You want your tomato to be free from bruises, cracks or blemishes as these are signs of tomato's impending doom.
And remember that tomatoes don't like chilly temperatures, so don't buy any that have been stored in a refrigerated area.
Tomatoes are grown commercially in every state except Alaska. Tomato plants are generally hardy and can be grown in a garden, a container, or even upside-down! Though easily started from seed, newbie gardeners might find more success with tomato starts from a nearby nursery.
Store your tomatoes away from sunlight and at room temperature until they are ready to eat. If you must store them longer than a week or so, refrigerate until ready to use and then serve at room temperature.
Thoroughly wash tomatoes in cold water before use. If slicing, using a serrated knife and a sawing motion to avoid mushing your tomato. The skin of tomatoes is chock full of nutrients but if you must peel them, simply mark an "x" on the bottom of each tomato then place in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Then plunge in cold water to stop the tomato from cooking and the skin should come off easily.
Tomatoes are delicious cooked or raw in salads, sauces, salsas, toppings, jellies, soups, stuffed and sun-dried. Frozen and canned tomatoes are great in soups, sauces or many other dishes. We love our recipe for Salmon with Tomato, Onion and Herbs.
Be sure to look for more posts this week on the many different ways to use the yummy, and highly adaptable, tomato!
Author: Lillie Lancaster