Why We Love Tomatoes
For all you die-hard tomato fans, these babies are now in season! We’ve dedicated this week to celebrating these red gems. Pick some up during your next visit to the farmers’ market and whip up some tomato-licious recipes.
Tomatoes were introduced to Italy in the early 16th century but many folks feared they were poisonous since they belonged to the nightshade family (peppers, potatoes and eggplant also belong to this family). The French, however, felt differently about tomatoes and called them “pomme d’amour” (a.k.a. love apples). Colonists who settled in Virginia brought tomatoes with them, but they didn’t become popular until the 19th century.
Tomatoes are technically a fruit since they grow on vines. They come in various shapes, sizes and colors, too. Don’t be fooled into thinking they should all be round —check out some of the crazy tomato finds out there.
One medium tomato has 22 calories and provides more than 20 percent of your daily dose of both vitamins A and C. They’re also brimming with the antioxidant lycopene, which is more potent when tomatoes are cooked (like in tomato sauce or soup). Tomatoes also contain polyphenols, plant compounds that may play a role in the fight against liver and prostate cancer.
Although in Spain they like to pelt their neighbors with tomatoes every year on “La Tomatina” day, there are yummier (and less aggressive) ways to use them. My 6-year old enjoys them whole and bites into them like an apple (a simple lunch box idea). Fresh tomatoes can also be sliced as a simple side for your morning eggs or afternoon sandwich. Juice them for a super fresh bloody Mary, puree them into a delicious soup, or chop into salsa.
If you find yourself going on tomato overload, don’t fret! Capture all that tomato goodness by canning or freezing them or whipping up a batch of tomato jam.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »