According to singer songwriter, Guy Clark, there are “only two things that money can’t buy and that’s true love & homegrown tomatoes”.
Mr. Clark knew what he was talking about when he penned that line.
Vine-ripened tomatoes are by far one of my favorite aspects of summer. Growing up, we waited all year for that first tomato sandwich.
I remember one year when I was married to not-Dreamy, we had such a bumper crop of tomatoes from our backyard garden, we were bringing in 40 pounds of fruit every other day. I canned, dried, shared, made marinara, made ketchup and ate so many tomato sandwiches (white bread, Duke’s mayonnaise, salt and plenty of black pepper) I was sure I would turn into a tomato sandwich.
I did not.
That was before my celiac diagnosis (Adios, white bread!) and before the other food allergies (soy, peanuts, tree nuts) surfaced.
Regardless of how you enjoy them, here are a few tips on tomatoes, which are at their peak right now!
Nutrient benefits for ½ cup chopped tomato:
• 15 calories
• 4 grams carbohydrate
• 1 gram fiber
• 2 grams sugar
• 15% DRI vitamin A
• 20% DRI vitamin C
• 2% DRI iron
Varieties to look for:
• Chocolate Cherry – These bite-size tomatoes get their name from the rich chocolate brown color when they are ripe. I have great luck growing these. The yield is extremely high, and a single plant could supply a family with these sweet tomatoes all summer long.
• Cherokee Purple – This is one of the most widely available heirloom tomatoes. With a deep wine-colored skin, these fruits are large, weighing up to 1 pound each.
• German Pink – One of my favorites, this is an easy-to-grow heirloom tomato that is super-sweet and makes a great “slicer”. The fruits are huge at over 1 pound each.
• Roma – Widely available in most markets, these are terrific tomatoes for cooking. Think Roma tomatoes when you are making oven-roasted tomatoes, marinara sauce or homemade pizza sauce.
Selection and Storage:
Pick firm fruits that are blemish-free and uniform in shape and color. Colors vary with variety. Tomatoes may be green, yellow, orange, pink, brown, striped, etc.
Store tomatoes in the open (not in a plastic or paper bag) in a cool, dry place in a single layer (not stacked, as in a fruit bowl; this causes them to become mushy) with the stem end up.
Fresh tomatoes may be frozen whole, chopped or sliced.
To freeze tomatoes: wash and dry the fruit, then place in a tightly closed plastic bag. Remove as much air as possible from the bag. Freeze up to 8 months. Frozen tomatoes are best used in soups, stews, sauces and casseroles.
There are about 3 large tomatoes in a pound.
1 pound of fresh tomatoes is about 2 ½ cups chopped or 3 cups sliced.
Prep & Cooking:
To remove seeds from a tomato, cut the tomato in half. Squeeze the tomato gently, or loosen seeds with a spoon and scoop them out.
To chop or slice a tomato, remove the stem/core with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove the seeds, if you like (see above). Chop or slice tomato as needed.
In addition to enjoying fresh tomatoes raw, tomatoes can also be enjoyed cooked in dishes like soups, casseroles and stews. Tomatoes are also delicious baked in the oven.
Did you know some folks can’t enjoy a big ripe homegrown tomato?? It’s true, and here’s why:
Several conditions may prohibit certain individuals from enjoying tomatoes. Here are a few of them:
• Fructose Intolerance
This condition can occur in individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal disorders. High levels of fructose may cause gas, bloating, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea.
According to nutrition experts at the University of Virginia Digestive Health Center, tomatoes are considered “questionable” and “should be limited” for individuals with fructose intolerance.
• Pollen-Food Allergy Syndrome
Many hay fever sufferers also experience allergic reactions to plant-based foods.
This condition is considered a cross-reactivity. That means two different proteins are similar enough to be mistaken for one another, and thus can lead to a reaction.
Individuals allergic to peanuts, ragweed pollen or grass pollen may also react to tomatoes.
• Lipid Transfer Protein (LTP) allergy
According to research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the skins, pulp and seeds of fresh tomatoes contain several different allergens. One of them, LTP remains present in cooked tomatoes, as well as commercially prepared tomato sauces.
Some individuals are only allergic to raw tomatoes and others are allergic to both raw and cooked tomatoes.
Note: the riper the tomato, the higher the concentration of allergens in the tomato.
• Latex-fruit syndrome
Thirty to 50% of all individuals with latex allergies also react to certain fruits and vegetables.
Latex-fruit syndrome occurs due to cross-reactivity between enzymes (naturally occurring compounds that help biological processes occur) in certain foods like tomatoes and similar compounds in latex.
If you suspect you have one of the above health issues, be sure to see your health care provider to discuss your symptoms.