Whether you refer to them as a vegetable or a fruit, there is no denying that tomatoes are nutrient-dense, super-foods that many of us should be eating more of. Tomatoes have often been referred to as “functional” foods, which are foods that go beyond simply providing basic nutrition by delivering numerous other health benefits, such as disease prevention.
Most people don’t know this, but despite their popularity today, tomatoes were mistakenly thought to be poisonous about 200 years ago. This was most likely due to tomatoes being Nightshades, a botanical family of plants in which many are inedible and highly poisonous. Luckily for us, fear eventually gave way to enthusiasm for this humble yet delectable red fruit… ahem, vegetable, no… fruit; which later came to be known as the “love apple” because of its supposed aphrodisiac properties.
The benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds, including tomatoes, are infinite. Tomatoes are naturally packed full of beneficial vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants that have been shown to have a significant impact on the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Tomatoes are also associated with healthy skin and hair, increased energy, and decreased risk of obesity.
Here are 10 ways to incorporate more tomatoes into your diet:
TIP: Make sure to store fresh tomatoes at room temperature. Avoid refrigeration, as this causes them to lose their flavor.
1. Make a quick bruschetta as an appetizer.
2. Dip grape or cherry tomatoes in hummus or plain yogurt dip to have as a side dish or a snack.
3. Add sliced tomato to your sandwiches and wraps.
4. Add diced tomatoes (low sodium) to homemade or jarred marinara sauces when making pasta.
5. Used diced or stewed tomatoes in soups.
6. Try toast with avocado and tomato slices.
7. Make a quick salsa with diced tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cilantro and freshly squeezed lime.
8. Dice fresh tomatoes and add them to rice and beans, quesadillas or tacos.
9. Add them to your omelets or scrambles for breakfast.
10. Drizzle freshly sliced tomatoes and sliced mozzarella with balsamic vinegar and top with basil.
We are very fortunate in this region, to have fresh tomatoes available year-round, here in Upstate New York. That’s right, I said year-round, thanks to the folks at Shushan Valley Hydro Farm.
Located on the Vermont border, in the tiny hamlet of Shushan, NY, Shushan Valley Hydro Farm grows their herbicide and insecticide free tomatoes on an old 200 acre dairy farm in four greenhouses that cover only a quarter of an acre.
Using a well, fed from a pristine hillside spring on their property, Shushan Valley provides their plants with some of purest water around. They mix nutrients into the water which help to produce the most luscious tomato plants you have ever seen. Shushan Valley grows both beefsteak and cluster hybrids of an indeterminate variety, meaning the vines will continue to grow as long as the tomatoes are picked just before fully ripening. As the vines grow, they are swirled around the greenhouses, sometimes reaching almost 45 feet in length! It’s quite the operation.
Shushan Valley Hydro Farm can be found on both Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market in High Rock Park.
Along with their coveted tomatoes, they also offer a variety of greens, cucumbers, green beans, and fresh herbs. I love to stock up on a bunch of their items to make this delicious Easy Summer Gazpacho. It’s the perfect dish for the hot days of summer and a HUGE hit with my entire family! I hope you enjoy!
EASY SUMMER GAZPACHO
PREP TIME: 10 mins
TOTAL TIME: 2 hours
INGREDIENTS: *available seasonally at the Farmers’ Market
4 large tomatoes; chopped*
1 cucumber; chopped*
1 bell pepper; chopped*
1 cup onion; chopped*
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic; smashed*
1 cup water
1 small zucchini, chopped*
1 lb fully-cooked seafood*; optional (Try: shrimp, lump crab meat, scallops, squid, or monk fish)
Place tomatoes, three-quarters of the cucumber, bell pepper, onion, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt, freshly ground pepper, garlic and water in a blender.
Blend until smooth. (If your blender isn’t large enough to fit everything, make two batches and mix together.)
Place into a storage container or soup tureen.
Stir in chopped zucchini and the remaining quarter of the chopped cucumber.
Chill for two hours. Portion and serve.
Optional: Add some cooked seafood to make it a meal or try topping gazpacho with avocado for garnish.