Season for Tomatoes July – September

Tomatoes Described

While savory and gastronomically-speaking regarded as a vegetable, the tomato is botanically a fruit and a glowing member of the nightshade family.It’s subspecies are many, numbering upwards of 7,000 varieties, but most fall under seven categories based on shape and size: Slicing or Globe, Beefsteak, Oxheart, Plum, Pear, Cherry, Grape or Campari Tomatoes. An important addition, you’ve no doubt noticed a resurgence of the beautiful, wildly variant-in-color heirloom varieties at your farmers market. While the definition of an heirloom tomato is vague, we can say that unlike commercial hybrids, heirlooms all are self-pollinators who have bred true for 40 years or more. To discover more, check out 5 Great Varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes.

How to Buy and Store Tomatoes

Pick tomatoes for their deep, rich color (based on the variety) and firm, unblemished skin. A good, ripe tomato is also wonderfully fragrant and heavy for its size (use your intuition there). Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature – not refrigerated – for the cold temp will dull the flavor and turn the texture to mush. If you have unripe tomatoes and are dying to eat them soon, you can put them in a paper bag with an apple or a banana to hasten the process.

Steer clear of tomato products that come from a can (or anything from a can for that matter), as they contain the chemical bisphenol A – or BPA as we know it – which has been linked to not only cancer but obesity, diabetes and heart disease too. You’re much better off with organic pasta sauce or organic chopped tomatoes that come in a glass jar.  

If you must buy canned tomatoes – as is sometimes the case – go for those that are produced in the United States as many foreign countries are a bit lax on their lead content standards concerning cans. When it comes to tomatoes, this is especially important because of their acidity which can corrode the metal and cause lead leakage into the food.

How to Cook Tomatoes

Steer clear of cooking your tomatoes in aluminum cookware for the acidity will draw the aluminum into your food – and while unhealthy, this is also highly unpalatable.

The tomato makes many a dish delightful. From pasta sauces to raw salads, the tomato brings flavor and convenience. Because of the tomato’s acidity, they’re super easy to preserve in home for future use: whole; in pieces; sundried: or as a sauce or paste. Kept in their earthly form, tomatoes create our party-favorite salsa, gazpacho and bruschetta. And we can’t forget our beloved pizza sauce, now can we?

Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Did you know that a medium-sized tomato has about as much fiber as a slice of whole-wheat bread and only about 35 calories? It’s true! And a high intake of tomato products is associated with a lowered risk of colon and prostate cancers, attributable to high levels of cartenoids (lycopene and beta-carotene), also associated with protection from harmful UV rays. Adding to the tomato’s salient nutritional profile, their consumption relates to a decreased risk of breast cancer, head and neck cancers and might be strongly protective against neurodegenerative diseases

Why Buy Natural and Organic Tomatoes

In a study testing the levels of lycopene in different-colored ketchups, it was inadvertently found that organic varieties deliver up to three times as much of the cancer-fighting carotenoid as non-organic brands! It’s pretty safe to say this finding can apply across the board to all tomato products. (By the way, purple and green ketchups delivered only slightly less lycopene than red ones.) If you want the most out of your tomatoes, eat the whole thing: It’s been found that consuming them without the peel – peels are removed from most store bought sauces and such – significantly diminishes their value to your health.  

image: Muffet