Blog

July 18th, 2017

GetFEd! with tomatoes

by Yael Ben-Chaim

Family:

Tomatoes are in the Solanaceae or nightshade family.

Nutritional facts

If you are a tomato person—or even if not—farmers market tomatoes are sure to wake up your taste buds. Bustling in flavor and variety, tomatoes can be eaten raw on their own, in a salad, soup or sandwich. Read below to learn more!

Tomatoes are full of vitamin A, and vitamin C. Vitamin A is involved in immune function and vision. The Recommended Daily Allowance for vitamin A is 900 micrograms and 700 micrograms for men and women respectively.

Vitamin C is a necessary diet component that is important for wound healing and maintains the strength of bones, gums, and teeth. The Recommended Daily Allowance for vitamin C is 90mg and 70 mg for men and women respectively.

Selection and Storage

When selecting tomatoes, your nose is your best judge. Fresh, ready to eat tomatoes have an enticing fragrance. In terms of looks, select plump tomatoes with a firm skin. Avoid bruised, blemished tomatoes with deep cracks. Farmers markets tomatoes are not uniformally one shade of red, nor are they always perfectly round. Don’t shy away from heirloom varieties, which can be yellow, green, orange or even purple and wildly curvy and imperfect in shape.

Tomatoes should be purchased when ripe (firm and juicy) and eaten within a few days. Store ripe tomatoes stem-side down on a flat surface at room temperature. If purchasing tomatoes under-ripe, store at room temperature until fully ripe, then eat or store in a cooler spot.

For longer term storage, check out this recipe for Canned Homemade Tomato Sauce.

Who Knew?

  • Though not sweet and often lumped into the veggie family, tomatoes are, in fact a fruit! Like other fruits, they have seeds and grow from a flowering plant.
  • According to the USDA, Americans eat about 22-24 pounds of tomatoes per person, per year. About half of this accounts for tomatoes from tomatoes sauce and ketchup.
  • Tomatoes are one of the most popular home garden crops. About 93 percent of home gardener grows tomatoes.

When to buy it?

Maryland’s peak tomato season runs from July to September. The beautiful field-grown, vine-ripened tomatoes that you’ll find at farmers markets best enjoyed eaten raw, in a refreshing peach-tomato salsa or tomato salad with rosemary.

Recipe:

Parmesan Tomato Chips

Adapted from Delish

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray, for cooling rack
  • 15 assorted tomatoes, sliced 1/3” thick
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, or other dried herbs of your choice
  • ½ cup fresh grated Parmesan

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275 ° and grease a cooling rack with cooking spray, then place on top of large baking sheet
  2. On a large, paper towel lined plate, arrange tomatoes and cover with another paper towel, then press out juices
  3. Place tomatoes on cooling rack and lightly drizzle with oil oil, then season generously with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and/or any other dry herb of your choice
  4. Bake, checking every 30 minutes until tomatoes are dried out and beginning to crisp, about 3 hours
  5. Remove from oven and heat broiler. Sprinkle tomatoes with Parmesan, then broil on low until cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes
  6. Let cool, then remove from rack. Garnish with additional salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, if desired and serve

Pairings:

A touch of salt does wonders at bringing out tomatoes’ natural sweetness. To take your taste buds on further adventure, try a caprese salad, a traditional Italian combination of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil. The flavors work together in perfect harmony.

Photo Credit: Yuri Huta 

About the Author Yael Ben-Chaim

Yael is a food-lover, interested in local food systems and farmers markets. Follow Yael's blog posts on farmer market produce, recipes, and nutrition information. Yael is an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Maryland Farmers Market Association and is developing a seasonal food education program for MDFMA.