THE FOOD SERIES: Tomatoes
Ahhh good ‘ol tomatoes. Have you gone to a local farmers market and tasted those tomatoes? Fresh, local, and in season tomatoes are so juicy and sweet. I honestly cannot eat grocery store/supermarket tomatoes anymore.
As many of you know, tomatoes are actually the fruit of the plant, so they are technically fruits and not vegetables, even though we consume them like we would other vegetables. There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes, differing in shape, size and colour. From small cherry tomatoes, to the larger beefsteak tomatoes. Other popular ones include: grape, plum, campari, and pear. Their colours range from red, pink, yellow, orange, green, purple, brown or even black! (Would you eat a black tomato?)
So what are ‘heirloom’ tomatoes? The term heirloom essentially means that the seeds of the tomatoes are passed down over time through generations of a family. Today, heirloom tomatoes have gained in popularity and thus, more commercial practices and purposes have also been introduced in order to increase availability. Heirloom tomatoes are known for their unique shapes, sizes, and colours. If you have not seen them before, google it! They’re so amazing and beautiful.
Like the bell pepper, tomatoes are indeed nightshades. But as we all know, unless you suffer from any immune system issues or inflammatory diseases, nightshades such as tomatoes offer many great benefits that should be included in your daily diet.
Similar to other fruits and veggies, when selecting tomatoes, choose ones that are rich in colour. The skin should be smooth, free of any wrinkles, cracks, bruises or soft spots. Ripe tomatoes should smell sweet and fragrant, and should yield to light pressure. Once purchased, store them ROOM TEMPERATURE and out of direct sunlight to support optimal ripening.
Tomatoes originated in Central and South America, and first cultivated in Mexico. Today, tomatoes are enjoyed not only worldwide but year-round. China is the largest tomato-producing country followed by India, the United States, Turkey and Egypt. Around a total of 130 million tons of tomatoes are enjoyed per year!
One cup sliced tomatoes :
7.0 g carbs
2.2 g fiber
0.4 g fat
1.6 g protein
24.7 mg vitamin C
7.2 µg biotin
9.00 µg molybdenum
14.2 µg vitamin K
Tomatoes are known for their high antioxidant profile, particularly lycopene. Although there are no official conclusive results, this carotenoid pigment in addition to the many other antioxidants found in tomatoes have been linked to bone health, heart support, and other anti-cancer benefits. Two specific areas that have been researched regarding cardiovascular support include the antioxidant support and the regulation of fats in the bloodstream. I suggest researching more into this topic if you are interested. There are many articles, studies and other journal entries regarding this specific link.
Tomatoes are very high in vitamin C and beta-carotene, but we all know about vitamin C already. So instead I will discuss a new and lesser known vitamin: biotin, or Vitamin B7. Biotin is lipotropic, meaning it helps catalyze the breakdown of fat during metabolism in the body. It is also important for cell growth, particularly the cell membrane and for the production of fatty acids. Biotin also helps with the formation of proteins in the body. Therefore, it is often recommended as a supplement or are found in many skin and beauty products to support strengthening of the nails and hair. Deficiencies in biotin or Vitamin B7, may risk an increase in cholesterol levels, dermitits, eczema, dry flaky skin, the graying of hair or balding.
WAYS TO ENJOY
One of those wonderful and versatile ingredients that you can just add into so many recipes! When I do get my hands on fresh, local and in season tomatoes, I just love popping them back like candy, especially the cherry tomatoes. Mmmm!
In or on everything!
Stir-fry, curry, roasted veg, pizza, tarts, flatbreads, salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps, as a garnish… should I continue?
Ketchup, a quite popular condiment. But I love making my own healthy, refined-sugar free tomato sauce. Simply, blend tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, dates and water. You can do the same with other popular sauces and dips such as with salsa, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, tomato paste. Buy a huge case when tomatoes are in season and make a huge batch and freeze it! It may be more work, but it’ll definitely be tastier and much more nutritious than buying canned at the grocery store.
Two words: tomato basil. Probably one of the best combinations. I don’t need to say anymore, except link you to a great tomato basil soup recipe of course!
- Between 80-90% of tomato cultivation are used for manufacturing and producing products such as pasta sauces, pizza sauces, and pastes.
- 94.5% of a tomato’s weight is water.
- Tomatoes can keep longer if you store them with their stem down.
- 3/4 of Americans consume tomatoes in processed form…
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES / REFERENCES