It happens every year – we anxiously wait to enjoy the tomatoes we planted in June, and then suddenly, they all seem to ripen at once! Fresh, just-off-the-vine tomatoes are delicious (and perhaps best) with just a pinch of salt, or in a simple salad layered with fresh basil and olive oil. However, when tomatoes start showing up by the bushel, it’s time to get creative!
Tomatoes can be turned into chutney, soup, salsa, or fresh, bright tomato juice. They can be canned, of course, simmered into sauce, and dried or roasted for future use. There are even recipes out there for savory tomato tarte tartin, (a classic French pastry traditionally made with apples), and tomato sorbet! Tomatoes are technically a fruit (a giant berry), so why not try a few as dessert?
When life gives me tomatoes, I like to roast them with rosemary and garlic or, I grab a box grater and turn them into a fresh, bright sauce. Roasted and sauced tomatoes freeze well in quart size plastic bags. Savor them sometime in the middle of January, when summer seems very far away! Check out my Quick-Roasted Tomatoes and Simple Fresh Tomato Sauce on this segment from Sandy and Friends!
Tomatoes are also incredibly nutritious! They are packed with vitamin C and other nutrients, including an important phytochemical called lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, probably best known for its cancer-fighting abilities. Because of their lycopene content, tomatoes are one of the few foods that are more nutritious when they are cooked. Cooking breaks down tomato cell walls and changes the shape of lycopene, making it easier to absorb. Eating a little fat with your cooked tomatoes also helps you absorb more lycopene. No wonder olive oil and tomatoes go so well together!
For the tastiest and most nutritious tomatoes, grow your own (tomatoes are easy to grow in big pots on a sunny patio) or sample some of the juicy, sweet varieties available at the Prescott Farmers Market. If you purchase tomatoes in a supermarket, choose tiny grape or cherry tomatoes, which are tastier and more nutritious than larger types. Also look for tomatoes that are dark red, brown or even purple. And choose organic whenever possible. Many studies show that organic tomatoes pack more phytochemicals than conventionally grown varieties.
Most importantly, be sure to enjoy tomatoes that are ripe and ready to eat now! After all, winter will be here soon!