Tomatoes are native to mid-latitude regions of the Andes mountains in South America. Originally known as tomatl to the Aztecs, tomatoes were not widely eaten by humans until seeds were brought to Europe where Italians started experimenting with culinary preparations in the mid-1500s.
Nutrition: One cup of chopped tomato contains only 32 calories yet provides two grams of fiber!
Tomatoes are sources of the phytochemical lycopene, which gives them a vibrant red color. Lycopene is in the beta-carotene family and supports eye and skin health. Like most carotenoids, lycopene is more easily absorbed by our bodies when cooked.
Fun Facts: In 1897, Joseph Campbell of Campbell Soup fame started preserving tomatoes as condensed tomato soup.
Tomatoes are in the Nightshade family along with potatoes, peppers and eggplants. While some Nightshade plants are poisonous, tomatoes are not. However, their acidic quality likely leached lead from glass and pewter vessels causing heavy metal toxicity and sometimes death.
Storage Tips: For best flavor, store tomatoes around room temperature. Once their temperature dips below 55°F, ripening stops and flavors dull. Freeze, can or roast over-ripe tomatoes for later use.
While ketchup is America’s favorite condiment, moderate consumption is advised, as ketchup is a source of both added sugar and sodium.
Umami, the savory fifth culinary flavor, is synonymous with braised meats and mushrooms. Because of their high natural glutamate content, roasted and dried tomatoes are also considered umami.
Cooking: Shelve the canned tomato sauce during summer. Instead, combine cherry tomatoes, garlic and olive oil in sauce pan, simmer 10 minutes and serve! Cherry tomatoes have more flavor than large tomatoes so are well suited for a quick sauce.
FYI: Tomatoes rank ninth on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list. Wash thoroughly before eating, purchase organic or grow your own!
This light vegan Pesto Tomato Zucchini Soup is an excellent way to use up garden zucchini. The recipe calls for canned tomatoes, but feel free to substitute fresh if you have them!