Ingredient of the Week, June 16: Tomatoes
There are few vegetables that better mark the summer months than the sweet juiciness of a vine-ripened tomato. Although tomatoes are now available year-round, the truly wonderful qualities of tomatoes are the best when they are in season.
Tomatoes have fleshy internal segments filled with slippery seeds surrounded by a watery matrix. They can be red, yellow, orange, green, purple, or brown in color.
The tomato, is today the most popular garden vegetable in America. For many years, however, tomatoes (then called "love apples") were considered poisonous and were grown solely for their ornamental value. Tomatoes are usually easy to grow and a few plants provide an adequate harvest for most families. The quality of fruit picked in the garden when fully ripe far surpasses anything available on the market, even in season.
The tomato is native to western South America and Central America. In 1519, Cortez discovered tomatoes growing in Montezuma's gardens and brought seeds back to Europe where they were planted as ornamental curiosities, but not eaten.
Most likely the first variety to reach Europe was yellow in color, since in Spain and Italy they were known as pomi d'oro, meaning yellow apples. Italy was the first to embrace and cultivate the tomato outside South America.
The French referred to the tomato as pommes d'amour, or love apples, as they thought them to have stimulating aphrodisiacal properties.
In 1897, soup mogul Joseph Campbell came out with condensed tomato soup, a move that set the company on the road to wealth as well as further endearing the tomato to the general public.
The high acidic content of the tomato makes it a prime candidate for canning, which is one of the main reasons the tomato was canned more than any other fruit or vegetable by the end of the nineteenth century.
Excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K A very good source of molybdenum, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, chromium, and vitamin B1.
Use tomato salsa as salad dressing.
Mix tomato salsa with plain nonfat yogurt for a great dip. (Use carrot sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, or bell pepper strips to dip.)
Start lunch or dinner with (low sodium) spicy tomato juice on the rocks with a twist of lime.
Purée tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and scallions together in a food processor and season with herbs and spices of your choice to make refreshing cold gazpacho soup.
Add LOTS of tomato slices to sandwiches and wraps.
Add to bean and vegetable soups.
Start lunch or dinner with tomato soup. Garnish with avocado.
Make a side salad of chopped tomatoes, sliced red onions and lowfat mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Snack on cherry/grape tomatoes. Serve with grapes if desired.
Chop and add to egg omelets.
Scoop out center and fill with tuna salad, chicken salad or egg salad.
Bake tomatoes in a fashion similar to baked apples: Core, fill with 1 tsp. vinegar, 1 tsp. brown sugar and 1 clove. Bake at 350 for 35-35 minutes.
Are tomatoes one of your favorites? How often do you use them raw or cooked? Have you ever grown them?