Tomatoes are a National Treasure

Ellen Haas Health Guide

    Tomato farmers have had a hard time these past few months. Tomatoes are one of our national treasures and it was sad how they became part of a recent food safety scare. The Food and Drug Administration, because of the possibility they we re contaminated with salmonella, told consumers not to eat them if they came from certain parts of the country.


    But now that they have been cleared of any possible risk by the FDA, it is time to celebrate and enjoy one of our national treasures - the tomato. Farmer's markets are my favorite place to buy local tomatoes. When they are grown close to home they do not lose their flavor as they travel across the country.

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    Here in Martha's Vineyard, where I come in August every year, there are lines of eager customers excited to try out the many varieties of tomatoes. To pick a good tasting tomato, smell it and you will discover that a tomato that smells good also tastes good.

    The range of different tomatoes includes the Brandywine, Golden Jubilee, Purple Cherokee, the big Beef Steak and many other tomato varieties. There are many more varieties to discover. A real taste treat are the heirloom tomatoes that are found in many markets. They are grown by saving the seeds of old home grown varietals.


    Not only are tomatoes a true good taste, they are also a nutrition star. They are rich in Vitamin C and contain potassium, fiber and some B vitamins. Also, they are full of lycopene, a potent antioxidant. Cooking increases the lycopene so enjoy tomato sauces, soups and juices because they can contain five times as much lycopene as a raw tomato. Lycopene is fat soluble, so cook your tomatoes with a little fat like olive oil to increase absorption.


    The best way store a tomato is on the counter at room temperature. Avoid putting them in the refrigerator. The cold saps their flavor and makes them mealy. Also, tomatoes taste best when you eat them in a few days.


    While I love to eat tomatoes sliced up by themselves. Tomatoes are also great partners with other foods. Here are three partners with tomatoes that can be mixed up in an instant:

    • Corn - Chop up fresh tomatoes, some basil and mix with steamed corn a little olive oil and top grilled chicken or fish with the mixture.

    • Zucchini - Steam zucchini and mix with chopped fresh tomatoes and fresh oregano and basil and pile high on pasta, or as a delicious side dish.

    • Mushrooms - Sauteé the mushrooms and add quartered tomatoes and a bit of herbs like parsley and basil and sauté some more. (link to Sauteed sea bass with Mushrooms and tomato ragout)


    Tomatoes make recipes come alive with taste and color. They make a summer evening meal a treat. Try these simply scrumptious ways to celebrate the sweetness of the tomato. Here a couple of marvelous recipes we always enjoy at Ellen's Healthy Table:


    Tomato and Summer Squash Gratin

    Grilled Chicken with Tomato-Avocado


Published On: August 07, 2008

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