Juicy, slightly sweet and acidic, with a firm texture are the qualities of the heirloom tomato I am enjoying at the moment.
Typically, I am not a fan of the tomato, however, this is about the time of year when my palate is happy to enjoy them. Especially, beautiful heirlooms with their abundance of variation in color, shape and flavor. I love to enjoy them raw with some herbs, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar and/or cheese.
There’s actually quite a bit to say about tomatoes both from a nutritional perspective and also a commerce perspective. Sadly, tomatoes are some of the more scientifically tampered with fruits, not necessarily genetically modified, though those exist on the market, but mostly just hybridized to create a product that travels well and uniformly colors rather than tastes good. This is why conventional tomatoes tend to taste bland and grainy. Organic or farm fresh tomatoes are the most delicious. A tomato is perfect when it tastes of the sun and the elements that helped it to grow, even if it isn’t perfectly uniformly colored and doesn’t last for weeks on the shelf. (in fact, a tomato, or any food for that matter, that lasts for weeks on the shelf is a little bit scary).
First recorded domestication of the tomato was in South America around 500 BC, although its found in warm cultures around the globe. Since that time it has been hybridized to create so many variations that it boggles the mind. It’s a staple ingredient in many cultures and often serves as a foundation for sauces, soups and stews, and a great number of other savory dishes. I mentioned that I enjoy tomatoes raw and rarely eat them cooked. However, roasted tomatoes are a perfect example of the umami flavoring that we all tend to crave. For me, it’s a texture thing, umami is delicious but if the texture is not right, there’s no way I’m going to enjoy it.
From a nutritional perspective, tomatoes are an amazing source of nutrients. They are, of course, rich in vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamin C. Even better, though, they are an amazing source of phytonutrients and antioxidants; rutin, lycopene, zeaxanthine, quercetin, kaempferol, beta-carotene, holy tomato, the list goes on. All that nutrient density makes them have a significant beneficial impact for your health. Research shows that consuming tomatoes can help decrease cardiovascular issues, including heart disease, increase bone density, boost immune function, decrease oxidative stress, and decrease the risk of various cancers...namely prostate and lung (as far as studies are concerned).
The only downside to the tomato? It is in the nightshade family, and while it’s not necessarily the tomato itself that is poisonous (the leaves are), if you are experiencing systemic inflammation or auto-immune issues, it could be good to decrease your intake. That being said, the benefits of consuming them are pretty significant so it’s worth not cutting them out of your diet entirely if you can help it.
Last word on tomatoes, but not least, many people store their tomatoes in the refrigerator. This actually decreases their nutrient viability and causes the sugars to break down in a way that makes impacts their flavor. Keep them at room temperature and eat them before they spoil. (: