For most the warm temperatures of summer are quickly slipping away. Long sunlit days become shorter and the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables will soon diminish. Take advantage of the last few days of summer and start meal planning with the ripe, juicy, flavorful tomatoes.
In season from June through October, the tomato is a fruit grown on the plant Lycopersicon esculentum. Traditionally tomatoes are associated with Italian and Greek cuisine; however, they are actually native to South America. Today, tomatoes are one of the most consumed produce, most likely due to their versatility and rich health benefits.
Tomatoes provide a bounty of essential vitamins and nutrients. Some of these include antioxidants, potassium, iron, fiber, lycopene, vitamins A, B, C, E, beta-carotene, and mineral manganese. Studies have shown that the vitamins found in tomatoes provide extensive health benefits and can help prevent heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer.
Amazingly there are thousands of different varieties of tomatoes varying in size, shape, and color. When selecting the perfect tomatoes look for ones that are rich in color. They should be plump with smooth skin and free from wrinkles, bruises or soft spots. Ripe tomatoes should have a fresh, sweet aroma.
Avoid keeping tomatoes in the refrigerator, due to the fact that tomatoes are sensitive to the cold temperatures. Cold temperatures can cause tomatoes to lose their intense flavor and become mealy. Ideally tomatoes should be stored at room temperature avoiding direct exposure from sunlight. If stored properly tomatoes will stay fresh for about a week.
The tomato has infinite possible cooking applications. Pureed into a homemade pasta sauce, added to soups, stews, and chilies, a topping for sandwiches or burgers, thrown whole into salads and pasta dishes, turned into salsa, deep fried or simply seasoned with some salt and pepper; tomatoes are sure to satisfy any way you decided to slice them!
This simple tomato salad makes for a quick dinner side dish that is sure to be a winner.