Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Adventures with the tomato…Part I


Those of you reading this that have followed my Flickr images over the years already know that I am obsessed with the tomato. I love to grown them, cook with them, eat them right off the vine and in any recipe.

I love this quote from Alice May Brock (of Alice's Restaurant fame):
Oregano makes it Italian;
Wine and tarragon makes it French.
Sour cream makes it Russian;
lemon and cinnamon make it Greek.
Soy sauce makes it Chinese;
garlic makes it good…!

For years I have not been able to stop myself from photographing tomatoes.
The seductive form of my favorite perfectly oval, perfectly red, perfectly sweet grape tomato is always too much to resist.
And those heirloom varieties with their coats of many colors and often abstract shapes are like miniature Picasso sculptures on the vine.

And in my wackier moments, I have even concocted stories about adventures of a certain tiny tomato named, Tom...(but, of course…!)

the tiny-tomato returns...

Lately, I have had a hunger to read all that I can find about this versatile fruit (yes, for those of you that don’t already know, the tomato is technically a fruit).
This was always an interesting aspect of tomato history to me, and there has been a long standing debate of ’Fruit or Vegetable’ question.

By definition, a fruit is the edible plant structure of a mature ovary of a flowering plant, usually eaten raw; some are sweet like apples, but the ones that are not sweet such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc. are commonly called vegetables.

Botanists claim that a fruit is any fleshy material that covers a seed or seeds.
Yet horticulturists would pose that the tomato is a vegetable plant.
Until the late 1800's the tomato was classified as a fruit to avoid taxation, but this was changed after a Supreme Court ruling that the tomato is a vegetable and should be taxed accordingly.

Well, with whatever you wish to call him, I call the history and lore surrounding the tomato, darn interesting reading.

a sea of lycopene...une

Lycopene is the pigment that makes certain fruits and vegetables red, such as tomatoes, watermelon, guava and pink grapefruit. Lycopene is an antioxidant which may help lower the risk of certain diseases. In the body, lycopene is deposited in the liver, lungs, prostate gland, colon and skin.

Its concentration in body tissues tends to be higher than all other carotenoids. But of all the carotenoids, lycopene is one of the most potent antioxidants. And studies have shown that high consumption of lycopene rich vegetables is associated with a lower risk of certain types of cancer.

lycopene sisters

Lycopene is not produced by the body, so you can only obtain its benefits through eating lycopene rich foods. Tomato based products are particularly good sources.
Products such as tomato rich pasta sauces, tomato based soups, tomato juice, tomato sauce and tomato paste are common sources of lycopene in the diet.
Besides their delicious-ness, this health benefit is another solid reason to eat those glorious home-grown tomatoes that are in season right now.

I was going to add a favorite tomato recipe here, but the best way I know to eat tomatoes at this time of year is sliced with a pinch of whatever salt suits my fancy that day. Today I had a glorious beefsteak tomato with a dash of Kilauea black sea salt.

What is your favorite way to eat a fresh tomato…?


A Brush with Color said...

I have never understood how some people say they don't like tomatoes. It makes no sense to me. I love them. As for how I like them best, yes--right off the vine with a little salt and just bite them while they're still warmed by the sun. I think they're just delicious. We have trouble growing them without the squirrels taking off with them, but we buy them regularly from local folks at the farmer's market. I'm glad you mentioned prostate health--I've gotten Joe to like them a lot more telling him about that!! LOL.

terrie said...

lol...loved this comment..I agree, when tomatoed are fresh and warmed by the summer sun, a pinch of salt is all you need...well I must confess, when I harvst them each morning, right off the vine is just a superbe treat...