Tomatoes-Bright Red Jewels of Summertime
TEXARKANA, Ark. –
Tomatoes are a bumper crop this year. Visit the farmers market and you will see tables full of those bright red jewels of summertime. Imagine slicing one up and putting it on a sandwich. Or you might just wash and eat; this is my personal favorite way to eat them.
Honestly, how many of you have been craving a Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich after seeing all the bright red tomatoes? I know I have. What would our summer meals be like without them? There is no comparison between a store bought tomato and one that is fresh from the garden.
Tomatoes make our foods taste better, add color and texture to our meals, and are an added health benefit. They consist of a large number of antioxidants which fight different forms of cancer. The rich source of vitamins and minerals provide a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases, as well as improves eye health, prevents hypertension and urinary tract infections.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant highly effective in scavenging cancer-causing free radicals. This benefit extends even to the heat-processed products, which include ketchup.
The lycopene in tomato prevents serum lipid oxidation, thus exerting protective effect against cardiovascular diseases. Regular consumption of tomato has shown to decrease levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. These lipids are the key culprits in cardiovascular diseases and lead to the deposit of fats in the blood vessels.
One single tomato can provide about 40 percent of the daily vitamin C requirement and a medium size has only 24 calories. They are high in potassium and other antioxidants and low in sodium, fat and calories.
To get all that goodness, choose tomatoes that are plump and heavy, with smooth skins. Skip those with bruises, blemishes or deep cracks. Depending upon the variety, ripe tomatoes are completely red or reddish orange to completely orange and give slightly to gentle palm pressure.
Do not refrigerate your tomatoes until they are ripe and mature. If they are still unripe or partially ripe, store them at a cool room temperature in a light-but not-sunny-area. They should not be refrigerated until they are mature. When they reach your favorite stage of ripeness, refrigerate them for no longer than 5 days. After that time, they begin to lose both texture and flavor.
There are more than 4,000 varieties of tomatoes to choose from, ranging from the small, marble-size cherry tomato to the giant Ponderosa that can weigh three pounds. This year I planted a purple cherry tomato that is doing quite well. The difference in the varieties determines their use.
Cherry, globe, and grape are wonderful in salads or eaten just out of hand. While the larger, Better Boy and Beef Steak tomatoes are most often used for sandwiches. If you are making salsa, plum and pear shaped varieties, such as Roma are the best choice due to their meatiness. The orange tomato is said to be lower in acid.
Contact us at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Miller County Extension office in the courthouse, e-mail me at email@example.com or call 870-779-3609. You can also get great tips on facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS/CarlaHaleyHadley, twitter at @MillerCountyFCS and Instagram millercountyfcs_carlahadley.
Get your free copy of Enjoy Arkansas’ Fresh Tomatoes which contains nutritional information as well as recipes. We also have free publications on preservation of tomatoes. This is one of my favorite summertime recipes. It is easy and so good.
- 6 large red ripe tomatoes, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced fine
- 1/2 tsp. Dried thyme, or 2 tablespoon fresh
- 1/4 cup green onion, sliced thin
- 1/4 tsp. Parsley, minced
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1/3 cup canola, vegetable or olive oil
Place tomatoes in a shallow dish, or zip top baggie. In a separate bowl, combine green onion, thyme, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Sprinkle mixture over tomatoes. Combine oil and vinegar in shaker; blend well. Pour over tomatoes, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Spoon marinade over tomatoes from time to time.
Serves: 10 people, approximately 4 slices each
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours includes standing time
By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854