Tomatoes

Tomatoes 101 provides an introduction to tomatoes, including what they are, nutrition information, recommended recipes, and frequently asked questions.

Background

You say tomato, I say tomato…you say a vegetable, I say a fruit.  Who knew a plant could be so controversial?!  TOMATOES, you are glorious.  We cook with you all of the time, be it pastas, pizzas, curries, salads.  The list goes on and on for this delicious and versatile food.  I don’t know if it’s my Italian heritage, but sometimes I think tomatoes run through my blood.  Tomatoes and I got off to an interesting start, however.  I was five years old when I grabbed a tomato out of the crisper and bit into it like it was an apple.  Something was either wrong with the tomato or it wasn’t the way I was meant to consume them, but I got sick almost immediately.  I wouldn’t eat fresh, unadulterated tomatoes again until I was in my late teens.  What a shame, all of those tomato years I missed out on.  Alas, I’m making up for it now.  It is by far and large my favorite fruit.

Tomatoes are a powerhouse of antioxidants. First and foremost, these antioxidants are linked to heart health and regulating fat in the bloodstream.  Antioxidants in tomatoes, with a large amount coming from Lycopene, are protective against several types of cancer and protect the skin from UV rays.  Red varieties are said to contain more, but there are still a wealth in orange and yellow varieties.  The large amounts of vitamin A are necessary for our vision, especially low-light and color.  In addition, packed with vitamin C which is also an antioxidant, tomatoes help our bodies fight against harmful diseases.  They also provide a boost in potassium, at 300mg per cup, which helps decrease blood pressure.  There is also more and more research coming available about tomatoes and how they positively impact our bone health.  How amazing is that?!  You can eat these beautiful plants and get all of these benefits?!  I am continuously blown away but the natural preventative and healing properties of plants and how available they are to us.  I’m surprised they aren’t gobbled up to the point that we can’t access or afford them.  As they say, nature’s medicine!

See below to learn more about tomatoes, including other frequently asked questions and recipe ideas!

Basic Nutritional Information

Calories Total Fat Carbohydrate Protein Potassium Vitamin A Vitamin C
18g 0.2g 3.9g .9g 300mg 20% DV 28% DV
Low Low Low Low Medium High High

*1 cup or 1 medium tomato

Frequently Asked Questions

Where did tomatoes originate?
They originated in South America.  Tomatoes are native to the region of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile, but the tomatoes we know were cultivated by the Mayans.  Around the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors learned of them and began shipping them around the globe.  Tomatoes were thought to be poisonous in North America, so they were not eaten until 1820 when someone in North America ate one and didn’t die. Think of all of that nutrition they were missing out on!

What is a night shade?
Tomatoes are called night shades, which is a word that originates from the food family they belong to, Solanaceae.  There are over 2,000 species of nightshades, and they range from flowers and herbs, to trees and vegetables.  We are most familiar with tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes and peppers.  They are completely healthy for most people, but for a few it can act as a trigger similar to wheat or dairy and cause major immune reactions.

When is the best time of year to eat tomatoes?
Tomatoes are grown year-round, however they are best in late summer into early fall.  China is the biggest exporter of tomatoes, followed by the United States.

How should I store tomatoes?
They should be stored at room temperature, however if they are very ripe and you want to keep them around a couple of more days, store them in the refrigerator.  If you want to speed up the ripening process, put them in a paper bag with a banana or avocado.

Now to the good stuff and getting these delicious plants in your belly: Recipes

Fire-roasted Tomato Chipotle Salsa.

This recipe was recreated from Mark Miller’s salsa of the same name in The Great Salsa Book.

The Best Veggie Pizza…Ever

Ingredients

  • Pizza dough (we use Emeril’s version here)
  • Roasted cherry tomatoes (recipe below)
  • All kinds of veggie toppings of your choosing.  For this one we used a variety, but included sauteed zucchini, shitake mushrooms, onion, red pepper, kalamata olives, artichokes, fresh basil
  • Macadamia Nut “cheese” ingredients (macadamias, cashews, water, garlic, lemon, salt)
  • 3 tbsp Garlic
  • Pizza sauce of your choice.  For this one we combined a marinara sauce we already had open, with a can of plain tomato sauce to make it a little thicker and not run.  The marinara sauce had a lot of Italian spices in it which made it extra flavorful

 Recipe

  • Heat the oven to 350
  • Prepare the dough and let it rise. We always use Emeril’s recipe.
    • We split the dough into 4 parts to make 4 very thin pizza crusts.
    • Pro tip from Andrew’s mom: To get the dough to rise faster, put it on top of a warm oven, or inside an oven that was heated to 200 degrees, and then turned off
  • Make the cashew macadamia cheese.  We use Erin Ireland’s recipe and it is the bomb (this can also be prepared a day earlier and kept in the fridge, which is what I did because we used it on pizza burgers the night before as well)
  • Prepare the roasted cherry tomatoes (these can also be prepared earlier or the day before like I did)
    • Cover the bottom of a 9x11 pan with cherry tomatoes so there are not any on top of each other (8x8 pan for smaller pizzas)
    • Pour a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and a pinch of red pepper flakes over the tomatoes and mix around.  Put the tomatoes into the oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring and checking occasionally.
  • While the tomatoes are cooking, chop and sautee all veggies in garlic, continuously adding more garlic as needed.  Do not sautee the olives, artichokes, and basil. Those will go on fresh.
    • If you prepared the tomatoes earlier, then heat the oven to 450 or 500 at the beginning of the instructions (we usually heat to 500 but the oven we used recently was much better than ours and we went down to 450).
  • When your dough has risen, separate it into 3-4 equal sized balls.  Roll out the dough on a floured surface with a rolling pin or wine bottle (we don’t have a rolling pin and wine bottle works great lol).  The dough should be thin, but be careful that it doesn’t have holes.  This is also a preference of how thick you like your crust
  • Before putting on toppings or sauce, transfer the dough to a cookie sheet or pizza pan
  • Once you’ve arranged it on the pan, add your sauce, then arrange your veggies on the pizza, using different styles for each pizza as you like.  Then scoop bit dollops of the cashew cheese so there will be some for each piece.  Shake red pepper on the pizza if desired and add the fresh basil.
    • The cashew cheese was AMAZING and a game changer for our pizza, but we felt we added too much per piece.  Next time we will reduce, or put the cheese on the dough before the sauce in a thin layer.  This way, you get the flavor but it isn’t too overwhelming.  Play around with it and let us know what you find!
  • Put in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, checking to ensure it doesn’t burn throughout the baking process.
  • Enjoy!