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Tomatoes 101

It’s peak tomato season in BC from late July to September so it’s time to stock up with they are sweet, juicy and perfectly ripened. Tomatoes are technically a fruit not a vegetable. They come from a flower and have seeds. There are several varieties of tomatoes that can be generally categorized into 3 groups: round or Beefsteak are ideal for slicing and putting in sandwiches, roma or plum are egg shaped, have fewer seeds and are great for sauces and Greek salads and heirloom tomatoes which come in so many colours from yellow to orange, green, pink, purple and red.

Nutrition

Tomatoes are packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In particular they are known for their lycopene content, an antioxidant with anticancer properties. Cooked tomato products contain more available lycopene than fresh. ½ cup fresh tomatoes is considered one fruit and vegetable serving on the food guide and contains 17 kcal, 0.8g protein, 0.2g fat, 3.7g carbohydrate and 1.2g fibre. They are a great source of vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium and B6. Research shows that tomatoes also have a cardio-protective role possibly due to their folate, potassium and B6 content.

Buying

Look for tomatoes with a smooth, shiny skin free of bruises, cuts and mold. On the bottom of the tomato look for the star formation which indicates a sign of ripeness and maturity. A ripe tomato will give slightly to gentle pressure.

Storing

Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature not in the refrigerator and out of direct sunlight. Ideally not too close to ethylene producing fruit like apples, pears and bananas as this will speed ripening.

Preparing

Tomatoes are ready to eat and can be eaten whole, sliced, diced stewed and skinned. Slicing a tomato from stem to end will retain more juice within the tomato rather than slicing it into rounds. Most people cut out the stem end but it is eadible.

Eating

Tomatoes can be eaten raw or cooked in so many different ways. Make a vegetable “Tian” with sliced zucchini, tomato and purple onion layered in a fan, drizzled with olive oil in a flan dish and bake in the oven. Tomato salsa with jalapeño, cilantro, onion and lime juice is delicious with tortilla chips, on fish tacos or with papaya and brie quesadillas. Slow roast tomatoes with garlic cloves and fresh herbs for a rich tomato sauce or stuff them with herbs, rice and nuts for a vegetarian entrée.

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