Monday, July 21, 2008

Fruit or Vegetable? Who Cares, Just Eat Tomatoes Every Day

One of my favorite things I like to do this time of year is visit the local farmer’s market and load up on my fresh fruits and vegetables for the week. This past Saturday, I was there—tasting apples and a variety of flavored nuts (almonds, in this town, it’s all about almonds!), while carefully selecting cucumbers, peppers, squash, and that market staple, tomatoes. Boy, do I love fresh summer tomatoes!

Recently, tomatoes have been getting a bad rap, with all the salmonella scares. And don’t get me wrong—there are several crops infected with these serious bacteria. The good news: most of the tainted crops have been removed from the marketplace, and none have been traced back to any local area farms. I still suggest exercising caution (wash and rewash all of your produce, not just tomatoes), but do not stop eating these nutritious and tasty…um, vegetables? Fruits? Ah, let me get back to you on that.

To even suggest that tomatoes sold in your grocery store are of the same species as those bought fresh (some are picked that morning!) at your local farmer’s market, is to compare eating frozen pizza to a fresh-from-the-oven slice from your favorite pizzeria. There is no comparison. Same with tomatoes. Store-bought tomatoes are months-old, stored and refrigerated for who-knows-how-long before being placed in the produce section.

My suggestion—Don’t buy them!
My other suggestion—Grow your own!
My last suggestion—If you can’t grow your own, then support your local farmer’s market and load up on this wonderful…ahh, vegetable…I mean, fruit? Chew on that for a bit longer and I promise I will get back to you.

Why are tomatoes so good for you? Lycopene. This is the chemical that makes tomatoes red. A review of over 50 different studies showed consistently that the more tomatoes and tomato products people eat, the lower their risks of many different kinds of cancer. The evidence is stronger in the prostate, lung, and stomach. The tomato is also an excellent source of vitamin C (one medium tomato provides 40% of the RDA) and a good source of vitamin A (20% of the RDA).

Okay, well and good, Mike, but the summer-fresh tomato season is short, and you suggest we shy away from the grocery store tomatoes. What do we do for the other eight months?

Can it.

Beg your pardon?

The tomatoes. Can them.

Oh, I thought you meant…

Never mind that. For those months in between the too-short farm-fresh tomato season, I suggest, especially if you grow your own, to eat as many as you can, freeze some, and then can, or jar, the rest. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how fresh and tasty they remain months after you have plucked them from the vine. As for the rest of you who don’t grow your own—buy them canned. There are several excellent canned tomato products to choose from. I look for organic and watch the sodium levels. While these are not as tasty as the summer fresh fruit (veggie?), they still, in my opinion, are many times tastier that those sad excuses sitting forlornly in your grocer’s produce section. And here’s a bonus: processed tomatoes contain even more lysopene because the process helps release concentrated carotenoids. Even in ketchup!

What’s your favorite tomato dish? Growing up in an Italian household, where my mother made a tomato sauce once a week, I love pasta. I could drink marinara sauce! (I’m kidding…I use an i.v. drip). But summertime, I love nothing better than slicing up a fresh tomato (still warm from sitting on a window sill to ripen. Do not put fresh tomatoes in the fridge—it reduces flavor and texture, turning them into clones of their pathetic cousins from the grocery store) and eating it between slices of lightly toasted bread, a touch of mayonnaise, maybe a slice of cheese, and salt and pepper. My mouth is watering. Hope yours is too.

So, what’s the verdict?

Yeah, wow, tomatoes are good for you and taste great, especially in the summer. Gonna run out and—

No, not that. Fruit or vegetable?


A: To really figure out if a tomato is a fruit or vegetable, you need to know what makes a fruit a fruit, and a vegetable a vegetable. The big question to ask is: does it have seeds?

If the answer is yes, then technically, you have a fruit. This means that tomatoes are a fruit. It also makes cucumbers, squash, green beans and walnuts fruits as well.

What does it all mean? Who knows? What I do know is this: call them what you want, but just go out there and eat summer-fresh tomatoes every day while they last. They taste great, and may just save your life.

Until next time…



Anonymous said...

Well, maybe every day is too much for me, they cause me a little problem :-P but I love tomatoes too, fortunately there's a huge variety here and they're good for everything (in salad or in sauce).
Great entry again :-) thanks for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

Precious information! I really liked this article. Besides...I love tomatoes :)

Anonymous said...

I love it in the DEBATE MUCH sense.

when I trained people I found they'd as for my advice (eat tomaters) and then proceed to both pay me for it and DEBATE ME ON IT.

ahhhh nike. your JUST DO IT was ahead of your time.


Anonymous said...

You have to get up really, really early to go to a Farmer's Market, right? Like at 5 am.

Anonymous said...

my son loves tomato sauce he can eat just like that too.

Anonymous said...

My husband is ADDICTED to tomatoes. When I buy them, I know to expect them to be gone within a matter of hours.

Anonymous said...

Oh the poor lowly tomato! I agree that fresh off the vine is best; you can't beat the taste. We have a Farmer's Market in Ottawa, but they actually import some of their fruits..vegetables..uh, fruits, so there is no guarantee anything is grown locally. I used to can tomatoes, way back when I was a stay at home mom, but it was never the same. Try put a canned tomato on a hamburger. Ha! Wasn't it the lowly hamburger which had a bad rap last Summer? I have been completely oblivious to the whole Tomato Scandal, so I looked up some stats. Turns out 1 person in Canada has gotten ill. One!!! I think I will take my chances, but I will incorporate some of your advice into my tomato handling procedures.

Mandy said...

I love tomatoes I always have. As much as I love them, I am still a little scared of the salmonella scare. One of my all time favorite tomato dishes(?) is a tomato sandwich with mayo.


You are right about the tomatoes! I cannot eat them whole for some reason but love them diced and the fresher the better.

Unknown said...

I love tomatoes even with eggs and hash browns!! I enjoyed your article and couldn't agree more :)

Anonymous said...

Interesting article and very informative. I love tomatoes too!

Anonymous said...

My very favorite is a tomato sandwich!
They are fruits, as are squash, cukes, and peppers!
You can grow them inside all year if you have an aerogarden.
If you live in a small apartment, if there's even the tiniest bit of space outdoors you can grow them in a 5 gallon bucket, use azomite as a natural fertilizer.
If you go to the Natural News website they have articles explaining how the salmonella scare is to get people so afraid of fresh veggies and fruits that they will consent to irradiation of all fresh produce, thus destroying all nutritional value.
Please grow only heirloom tomatoes (and everything) do not buy GMO seeds! Sorry I am passionate about this, we are destroying our food supply with GMO crops.
Nice picture, Mike! Very personable blog!

Anonymous said...

mmmm, last month I was lucky enough to visit a flea market in Jacksonville where I bought a flat of the biggest, home-grown tomatoes.

Like you, I slice them thick, add pepper and eat as a sandwich with mayo (I don't even need the cheese)


I have yet to find a farmer's market or flea marker here in my new home, but I do have a "produce" stand down the street. While definitely better than super market tomatoes, they still weren't as good as the home grown I found in Jacksonville.

Anonymous said...

Our Farmer's Market is today! Fresh organic goodies here I come!

Susan said...

I feel very blessed that I have easy access to Jersey tomatoes. They may look "ugly", but they're delicious!! This time of year I definitely consume close to one every day!!


Anonymous said...

I agree with you that fresh fruit and vegetables are much better than those products that they sell in supermarkets. If there is an option for local products that's my choice.

Anonymous said...

I agree. With the exception of bananas, I buy all of my food at Farmer's Markets.

I never stopped eating tomatoes during the tomato scare and I never stopped eating spinach during the spinach scare last year.

I have developed a personal relationship with the farmers that I buy from and trust them without doubt.

Are you able to get almonds that are not pasteurized?

Anonymous said...

I love tomatoes too. It is very tasty if it was prepared with salted eggs alone. And it was very good too in salads. But I do not eat it everyday just like desi said, it would be too much if everyday.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with growing your own,, I do and as I speak I am enjoying a lovely tomatoe and cucumber salad. They are also one of the easiest things to grow! You can grow them as a houseplant with sufficient sunlight (or a simple grow light)! I recommend roma romatoes, these are great for recipes and fresh salsa! Of course, canned is good to have on hand too, I live in Alaska, it's tough to find any good ones in the store in winter. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Tomatoes are awesome. I could eat them everyday. I prefer to grow my own instead of worrying about salmonella. Nice article.

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