Mmm. Tomatoes. One of my earliest memories is of eating cherry tomatoes straight from my grandfather’s garden. There is a photo lurking around of me biting into a juicy beefsteak tomato similar to the way one would bite into an apple, but unfortunately (or fortunately, since I don’t relish a photo of six-year-old me published in a forum this large!), it lives on in Polaroid fashion in a photo album at my parents house, so I can’t share it with you. What I can share with you is what I know about tomatoes.
The Lord is pretty awesome in that He created fruits and vegetables in certain colors that help His children to easily identify the health benefits. For example, green veggies , such as kale and broccoli, are naturally rich in vitamin B, A, K and folic acid. Orange fruits and veggies , such as sweet potatoes and papayas, pack large amounts of beta carotene and vitamin C. Red fruits and veggies, like tomatoes and watermelon are excellent sources of lycopene, as well as vitamin C. Not only are these foods delicious, but they play a vital role in your overall health!
According to one website, there are over 7,500 varieties of tomatoes available today. I don’t know about you, but I certainly have never seen quite that many available at my local farmer’s market! That being said, there are quite a few options you are faced with when choosing tomatoes at the market. There are five main types of tomatoes with hundreds of varieties of these five available today. The five main types are:
- Plum tomatoes – best for cooking and eating fresh
- Beefsteak tomatoes – best for sandwiches or stuffed tomatoes
- Salad tomatoes – as the name suggests, best for salads
- Cherry tomatoes – commonly called “snacking tomatoes”
- Paste tomatoes – best for reducing for sauce or paste
I have seen several varieties of these types of tomatoes at my local farmer’s market. I am not a tomato connoisseur, so I tend to just stick with what I know, not really quibbling over whether I want the Tommy Toe or the Yellow Pear cherry tomatoes (and, yes, those really are two varieties of cherry tomatoes available at my local farmer’s market!).
Heirloom, Hydroponic, and Organic
A big push among farmers over the past few years has been hearkening back to yesteryear by reviving and sustaining heirloom varieties of tomatoes. More often than not, if you are buying tomatoes from the farmer’s market (you are, right?), you are buying heirloom tomatoes. I think this is great and most (if not all) of the tomatoes that I end up buying at the farmer’s market and from my local co-op are heirloom varieties. I don’t know much about heirloom tomatoes beyond the fact that they are often times 40+ year old seeds that have been preserved and revived. If you would like to read more about heirlooms, check this out.
When my old farmer’s market first opened this year, there was a new farmer there that had big, bright red tomatoes for sale the first Saturday in June. While everyone else was selling greens and strawberries, this guy had tomatoes. I was intrigued by this, so I went over and checked it out. He explained to me that his tomatoes were grown hydroponically, which is why he was able to have them for sale so early in the summer. I had never heard of hydroponics, and I still don’t know too much about it, but briefly hydroponics refers to the growth of produce in water instead of soil. However, I bought one of his tomatoes, took it home and was not at all impressed. It reminded me of the big box grocery store tomatoes I used to buy before starting our real food lifestyle. Essentially, the argument against hydroponics rests on the fact that the food that is grown is not able to get any nutrients from the soil it is usually grown in. This farmer argued that modern soil is so depleted of nutrients anyways, so growing the tomatoes hydroponically doesn’t, in his opinion, make that big of a difference. I beg to differ, but only based on my experience. This experiment on soil-based tomato plants vs. hydroponically grown tomato plants was interesting to me.
Since tomatoes are not on the dirty dozen list, I don’t worry too much about whether or not they are organic. As Lori mentioned before, sometimes local is just as good, if not better, than organic, anyways. One caveat to this, however, is when purchasing canned tomato products. Because of the dangers of BPA, I typically steer clear of anything in cans. However, I do not have the time, energy, resources etc. to put up enough tomatoes to last my family until next summer. There are several companies that sell organic tomato products in BPA free cans (including these from Tropical Traditions), so I choose these when I need tomato products in the off season.
Ways To Use
There are many, many ways to use tomatoes. Slice ‘em and stick ‘em on a sandwich. Put ‘em in a bowl and eat them as is. Our favorite way to enjoy them in the summer is to cut the tops off of a few beefsteak tomatoes, scoop out the insides and fill them up with egg salad or chicken salad. So delicious! Here are a few other ways to enjoy your tomatoes that I found across the web: