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Time for Tomatoes

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It’s tomato time and I am celebrating! Last night I sautéed tiny grape tomatoes in olive oil with garlic, basil, salt and pepper; then spooned it over grilled chicken and served it with steamed zucchini. I love seasonal eating. Although fresh tomatoes are available year-round, quite frankly, I don’t think they are very good until they hit their peak in summer. So, come summer, I celebrate! Tonight: Heirloom tomato salad with cucumbers and feta cheese.Tomatoes have an interesting history. For example, did you know that they are actually a fruit, at least botanically speaking? But, because they are not as sweet as most other fruits, for many years, people cooked them like vegetables and served them up as a salad or a main course, but never as dessert. So, back in 1887, when U.S. tariff laws imposed a duty on vegetables but not on fruit, the status of the tomato become legal fodder! Was it a fruit or a vegetable? The matter actually had to be settled by the United States Supreme Court! In 1893, the high court decided to define the tomato as a vegetable because people ate it for dinner, but never for dessert like they would fruit. Still, this decision did not change the inherent botanical truth of the tomato: It’s a fruit!When it comes to good nutrition, tomatoes are tops. In fact, they are famous for their lycopene. You’ve heard about it — the bright red pigment found most abundantly in ripe red tomatoes. It’s a potent antioxidant – a prominent member of the carotenoid family. It gained fame when studies showed that having a higher intake of tomatoes or higher levels of lycopene in the blood correlated with cancer protection. Enjoying tomatoes raw is part of the fun of summer eating, and raw tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of Vitamin A, but cooking them actually makes the lycopene more available for your body to absorb and use. That’s good news for spaghetti, lasagna and pizza lovers! According to the USDA, a fresh tomato delivers 3.7 mg of lycopene while a 1/2 cup of canned tomatoes has 11.8 mg. But don’t let that discourage you from enjoying the bounty of the summer!Read on for many of my favorite fresh tomato ideas, perfect for summer feasting:

All this tomato talk reminds me of my Dad. In our house, there was no such thing as a tomato. Only “TAMATERS,” my Southern father’s all-time favorite food, especially when paired with a delicious CAN-A-TUNER!What’s your favorite way to serve up summer’s fresh tomatoes? Let me know!

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