When I was young, we had a garden. I loved to pick tomatoes and eat them right off the vine. They were delicious and I’ve loved tomatoes ever since. But tomatoes are not just delicious; they are good for you.
Tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, potassium, fiber and choline, which are all critical for a healthy heart and blood circulation. However, it’s the lycopene in the tomatoes that interests me the most.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that can protect your body cells from destructive free radicals, and lower the risk of chronic diseases, such cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Regular intake of lycopene from whole tomatoes, tomato juice or sauces may also promote bone health and help prevent the development of osteoporosis.
In some countries, tomato season is from June until October. In Switzerland, it’s from April until November. But I still eat tomatoes all year round. When I choose them from the store, I look for plump smooth tomatoes with dark green stems and leaves. They should be free of bruises, wrinkles and cracks. They should have a deep uniform colour and feel firm but with a little give. I also sniff them for that sweet earthy aroma. If they don’t smell, feel or look good, I don’t buy them.
If not eaten straight off the vine, a tomato can loose its taste. How can we preserve that sweet earthy taste in tomatoes, particularly those that are store-bought?
Here’s an interesting fact. Researchers found that when tomatoes are stored in the fridge, irreversible genetic changes take place that erase some of their flavours. According to professor Harry J. Klee, a tomato’s flavours are like a symphony of sugars, acids and chemicals called volatiles. For tomatoes to taste good, they need that orchestra of 30 or more chemicals in the right balance.
So keep your tomatoes out of the fridge. Store them at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. They will keep for about a week, depending on how ripe they were when you bought them. If they are not ripe, store them in a paper bag with a banana or an apple to accelerate the ripening.
And how should you eat your tomatoes? There are so many ways. To get you started, here’s a simple tomato salad that I’ve been making for years. It’s easy to make and it bursts with flavour.
Toss in a bowl the following ingredients:
- A mix of tomatoes, chopped in bite-size chunks
- Some fresh herbs, chopped fine (parsley, thyme, chives, basil)
- 1-2 garlic buds, pressed
- A drizzle of pure olive oil
- Salt and ground pepper
Spoon into a serving dish. Delicious with crusty bread or as a side dish.