The tomato is Americans' favorite fruit. Fruit, you ask? Many think of it as a vegetable, but Wikipedia.com, an online encyclopedia, notes that is is a fruit.
Tomatoes comes in about 7,500 varieties and can be the usual cherry red, or pink, white, yellow, green, orange or even black. But I would think the black ones were terribly overripe.
For a fruit, they are loaded with beta carotene, vitamins A and C and lycopene, a natural anti-oxidant.
TOMATO TIME — Tomatoes are at their brightest color and ripest flavor right now. They are loaded with vitamins and associated with lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Try some today fresh from the garden or local farmers’ market or cooked up in a veggie or pasta combination.
-- Esther McCoy
In 2009, tomatoes became Ohio's official fruit, and tomato juice has been the official beverage of the state since 1965.
A.W. Livingston of Reynoldsburg played a big part in popularizing the tomato in the late 1800s. Because of this, his efforts are commemorated in Reynoldsburg with an annual Tomato Festival.
The tomato is native to South America, likely originating in the highlands of Peru, and the United States is not the biggest tomato grower. That distinction goes to China, but the word tomato has its roots in Aztec language.
Those luscious fruits - I still think of them as veggies - are a member of the nightshade family, according to the on line dictionary and can come in all shapes, round, square and oblong
For those who have green tomatoes at the end of the growing season and need to watch for frost, pick them and put each tomato in a small paper bag with a banana or apple, and they will eventually ripen.
The Ohio Regional Garden Club distributed these tomato acts several years back, and I saved the sheet. They listed two ways to enjoy ripe tomatoes with little preparation time.
Slice ripe tomatoes, add a slice for mozzarella cheese on top of each tomato slice and a sprig of fresh basil, drizzle with a good olive oil and serve as a first course or as a light lunch.
When tomatoes are fully ripe in the hot sun and begging to be picked, smash them into a pulp, after washing them, of course, add torn pieces of fresh basil and shake on salt and pepper to taste. Heap the mixture over your favorite cooked pasta and serve. The warmth of the freshly picked tomatoes and the hot pasta is all that is needed - no cooking required. Southern Italians make this sauce for their noon meal in the heat of summer.
The Ohio State University Extension had a tent at the Friendship Wine and Food Festival, and I picked up a brochure on tomatoes.
In telling how to select tomatoes, it noted that they should be firm, glossy, smooth and plump. Avoid those that are soft, bruised, cracked or otherwise damaged. Purchase tomatoes in various stages of ripeness and use the ripest ones first. Those that are the deepest color are the ripest. And remember, tomatoes can ripen after picked.
One medium tomato has only 35 calories, is rich in vitamins C and A and contains small amounts of the B vitamins and potassium. They are associated with lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers because they contain phytonutrients like lycopene. Phytonutrients are tiny chemicals found naturally in plants that help protect the body against chronic diseases.
A study has found that men who ate two or more servings of tomato products a week averaged a 35 percent reduction in prostate risk.
Another brochure at the Extension tent was for the food preservation workshop that the Jefferson County Farm bureau is holding from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 2 at its office at 587 Bantam Ridge Road, the old Bantam Ridge School.
The cost for Farm Bureau members is $15 and $25 for non-members.
Kate Shumaker of the Holmes County State University Extension will share her food preservation expertise from beginner to intermediate level.
Each participant will receive a Ball Blue Book on home canning and freezing and a 100th anniversary Ball canning Jar and be entered into a drawing for other door prizes, including a pressure canner.
This recipe for macaroni and cheese calls for grape tomatoes. It has 414 calories per 1 1/4 cup serving. The recipe is from Cooking LIght magazine.
Blush Mac and Cheese with
8 ounces uncooked corkscrew pasta
1 pint container grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup diced shallots
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon chopped, fresh thyme
2 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/4 cup 1-percent low fat milk
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces baby spinach leaves
4 ounces reduced-fat sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
Preheat broiler to high. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. While pasta cooks, place tomatoes on a jelly roll pan lined with foil. Broil 8 minutes or until tomatoes are beginning to blacken. While tomatoes cook, heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add diced shallots, minced garlic and thyme; saute 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add tomato paste; cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in milk, black pepper and salt. Bring to a boil. Cook 4 minutes or until thick and bubbly; stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add spinach, stirring constantly until spinach starts to wilt. Add shredded cheddar cheese and stir until smooth. Stir in cooked pasta. Top with the roasted tomatoes. Makes four servings.
What is more famous for using tomatoes than that popular favorite of youth of all ages - pizza. This one is lower in calories that the store or pizza shop variety being from the Cooking Light magazine. It has 390 calories for each 6-inch whole wheat pita.
Chicken Tikka Pizza
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 teaspoons Mediterranean seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
14.5-ounce can unsalted, diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon grated, peeled, fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Four 6-inch whole wheat pitas
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion, sliced vertically
3 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded, about 3/4 cup
2 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves
Preheat broiler to high. Cut chicken in half horizontally. combine chicken, yogurt and 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt. Place in a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Broil 5 minutes on each side. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Place tomatoes in a mini chopper, pulse until smooth. Add oil to pan and 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt, freshly grated ginger, red pepper and garlic. Cook 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes; simmer 4 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and cream. Cook 1 minute. Cut chicken into pieces. Add chicken to pan; toss. Place pitas on baking sheet. Broil 1 minute on each side. Spoon 1/2 cup chicken mixture onto each pita. Top with onion slices and grated cheese. roil 2 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro.
Marian Houser did a food page about 20 years ago and she made gazpacho for the main recipe. It was so delicious, I think I ate two bowls of it.
The Ohio State University Extension included a recipe for this same cold soup on the tomato fact sheet, and it took me back to that wonderful taste.
Ohio Fresh Gazpacho
1 cup chopped peeled tomato
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/3 cup chopped green onion
2 teaspoons snipped parsley
1 clove minced garlic
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 cups tomato juice
Chop all ingredients in a food processor. Chill in a glass or stainless steel bowl for at least 4 hours to marinate the flavors. Serves six to eight.
(McCoy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)