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Savor the Season: Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Whether hybrid or heirloom, tomatoes can be loosely divided into several categories: beefsteak, paste, medium-sized and cherry.

In Season - Tomatoes

Beefsteak
Beefsteak tomatoes are large, irregularly shaped tomatoes that are good for slicing as well as eating raw or cooked. 

Aunt Ruby's German Green - Spicy and sweet, these juicy, large green tomatoes usually have a pink blush to them.

Brandywine - A rich, juicy tomato with a slightly spicy flavor and firm flesh.

Cherokee Purple - A dusty pink tomato with a milk chocolate tint and a rich, smoky flavor said to be named after the Cherokee Indians, who originally grew them.

Paste
Paste tomatoes, also called Roma or Italian tomatoes, have an elongated shape and are great for cooking and making sauce and paste because when fully ripe they have fewer seeds and less water than other tomatoes.

Amish Paste - A large (for its type) oblong-shaped tomato with a sweet flavor.

Olpaka - A red, chili-shaped tomato with a sweet-tangy flavor.

Medium Size
Medium-size, or canning, tomatoes usually grow to about the size of a tennis ball.  They are used in canning as well as being good slicing tomatoes.

Green Zebra - A small tomato with green-and white-striped skin, green flesh and an acidic flavor.

Stupice (STOOH-PEECH-KA) - Deep red-skinned tomato from easter Europe with a full-flavored flesh that is sweet and tangy. Try these roasted , too.

Cherry
Cherry tomatoes are small (about 1 inch), round tomatoes reminiscent of large cherries.  They are wonderful tossed in salads or stir-fries, used as garnishes or simply popped in your mouth. 

Currant - Tiny pea-sized tomatoes with a sweet, fruity flavor. There are both red and yellow varieties.

Yellow Pear - Small pear-shaped tomatoes with a mild, sweet flavor. They're great for snacking. There is also a red variety.

Tomato Harvest

Storage
Never store tomatoes in the refrigerator.  Once temperatures go below 50ºF, the quality of tomatoes deteriorates with the pulp getting mushy and loss of flavor.  Store at room temperature instead.  You can speed ripening by placing underripe tomatoes in a brown paper bag and closing.

Peeling
To peel tomatoes, heat a large saucepan of water to boiling.  Carefully place the tomatoes in the boiling water for 15 to 20 seconds.  Transfer with a slotted spoon or tongs to cold water, then peel skins from the tomatoes.

Coring
To remove the core,  cut a small circle around the stem end with a small knife and remove the core.

Seeding
To remove seeds, cut the tomato crosswise in half and gently squeeze or spoon seeds into a bowl.  Although seeding a tomato may be beneficial to a recipe, remember that the seeds are the highest concentration of vitamin C and much of the flavor. 

Freezing
To freeze fresh tomatoes, peel, seed and chop them; do not drain.  Place tomatoes in plastic containers or plastic freezer bags, and freeze up to three months.  Use in recipes as you would canned tomatoes.

Roasting
To roast a tomato, insert a long-handled fork into the tomato. Hold it over a gas or charcoal grill, turning the tomato until it is charred on all sides.  Let the tomato become cool enough to handle, then remove the skin. 

Nutritional Highlights

  • Vitamin C (The highest concentration is in the jellylike substance surrounding the seeds)
  • Beta-carotene
  • Folate
  • Potassium
  • Lycopene and other phytonutrients

The discovery of lycopene and what seems to be its remarkable impact on health has made tomatoes a nutritional darling.  Lycopene is credited for many of the potential benefits attributed to tomatoes, but it may be an interaction among all the nutrients in tomatoes that positively influences health.

Health Highlights

  • Reduced risk of cancer, including prostate, lung and digestive cancers.
  • Lower risk of heart disease (may reduce blood clotting, blood pressure and artery-clogging LDLs).
  • Early research suggests a lycopene link to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's and Alzheimer's. Its antioxidant action may have a protective effect against these conditions.

Adding Tomatoes to Your Table

  • Dip vegetables and chips into salsa instead of creamy-style dips.
  • Add sliced tomatoes to grilled sandwiches.
  • Make a salad of tomato, cucumber, zucchini and corn.
  • Top pasta with tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil and cracked pepper.
  • Stuff a tomato with tuna or chicken salad.
  • Add grape tomatoes to the snack menu

Recipes to Try:

Tomato  Tomato 

Tomato 

Tomato  Tomato 

Grilled Vegetable
Salsa
     

Fresh Tomato
Sauce
 

Garlic-Basil Tomatoes
with Mozarella
 

Pesto-Stuffed
Tomatoes
 

Fresh Tomato &
Garlic Penne
 


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