Tomatoes From the Garden to the Table

The other day, I was admiring the prolific tomatoes growing in our backyard garden. Some plants already were up to my waist. Although many of us are “wilting” in the heat, gardeners may find that their tomatoes are thriving this year. Just like us, tomatoes need plenty of water in the hot weather.

Tomato

“Tomato” by photon_de (Flickr) used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

On occasion through the years, I have debated with my plant science colleagues about whether a tomato is a “fruit” or a “vegetable.” If we think like botanists, we would call a tomato a fruit or a “true berry” of the plant. In the nutrition field, tomatoes are considered vegetables because of the way they are used on menus. Regardless of what you call them, consider adding more tomatoes to your diet. Most of us shortchange ourselves in the fruit and vegetable department of our menus.

On the other hand, if we lived in an earlier time, we wouldn’t be eating tomato-based salsa, spaghetti sauce or anything made with tomatoes. Until the 19th century, the tomato was considered poisonous. Now we know that tomatoes are good sources of potassium and vitamin C and A while containing few calories. One medium tomato has just 25 calories.

You may have heard the term “lycopene” associated with tomatoes. Tomatoes are an excellent source of this pigment responsible for giving tomatoes their orange-red appearance. Lycopene is one of the compounds that may play a role in protecting us from diseases, including cancer.

Whether you pick your tomatoes from your own plants or purchase them at a grocery store or farmers market, enjoy some fresh, flavorful tomatoes in salsa or in gazpacho, a chilled tomato-based soup (see recipe provided). Learn more about tomato varieties and find a fresh salsa recipe by reading “From the Garden to the Table: Salsa” available at www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn584.pdf.

Because some of my plants are loaded with tomatoes already, I’m thinking ahead to preserving them, but that’s a topic for a future blog post. Until next time, try some gazpacho for a change of pace.

Gazpacho (Chilled Tomato Soup)

4 c. tomato juice
1/2 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled, pared, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 drop hot pepper sauce
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large tomato, finely diced
2 Tbsp. minced chives
1 lemon cut in six wedges (optional)

Put 2 cups of tomato juice and all other ingredients except diced tomato, chives and lemon wedges in a blender or food processor. Puree. Slowly add the remaining 2 cups of tomato juice to pureed mixture. Add chopped tomato and chill until serving time. Serve ice cold in bowls. Sprinkle with chopped chives and garnish with lemon wedges.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 90 calories, 5 grams (g) of fat, 11 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of protein and 440 milligrams of sodium.

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