Take time to taste locally grown tomatoes this year

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By: Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross
Food and Nutrition

Jennifer Shephard / The Elkhart Truth

This summer has been challenging for tomatoes. The abundance of rain, sometimes lack of sunshine and the cooler temperatures have not made for the best tomatoes. Good, hot, humid weather, with adequate rain and sunshine makes for vine-ripened tomatoes that have a flavor all their own. For me, juicy and nutritious describes wonderful tomatoes to a “T.”

Tomatoes are spheres of healthful eating. One medium sized tomato, about 150 grams or about 5 ounce provides 3/​4 of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C, more than 1/​4 the vitamin A, plus iron and niacin. They have all that satisfying goodness and only 35 calories.

Now is the best time to eat and enjoy tomatoes when they are locally grown and vine-ripened. Local tomatoes abound during the summer months when many luscious varieties are in great demand. Summer tomatoes are picked close to ripeness and make relatively short trips to the market.

If you have picked or purchased tomatoes that are not fully ripened, place them in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Too much sunlight causes tomatoes to soften without properly ripening. Light red tomatoes will ripen in three to five days if not refrigerated. Since most tomatoes are picked mature but not ripe, they will continue their ripening process. Keep in mind that tomatoes produce their own ethylene, which stimulates changes in color.

When selecting tomatoes choose smooth, firm and plump tomatoes with good color. Weight’s a factor, too. Make sure the tomato is a good weight for its size. Tomatoes love the kid-glove treatment; so handle them gently to prevent bruising.

Tomatoes can be broiled, baked, roasted, fried, stuffed, added to soups, sauces, stews and gravies or used with other vegetables. The tomato’s most popular use is as is, either eaten out of hand, sliced and seasoned or cut in salads. Tomatoes are terrific any way and they are a true convenience food with almost no waste!

Tomatoes are wonderful cooked too. They have a delicate taste and texture and make an impressive and colorful appearance. Adding fresh tomatoes in recipes is a snap. When the recipes called for a peeled tomato, place it on a slotted spoon, dip in simmering water for one minute and remove. The skin slides right off.

It is also a great time of year to make your own salsa, but please use an approved recipe and processing times. There are no shortcuts. Purdue Extension offers a free publication titled “Let’s Preserve Tomatoes” and can be downloaded from Purdue’s Education Store.

However you decide to prepare them, enjoy tomatoes now.

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is the Elkhart County Extension director and Extension educator in Health And Human Sciences at Purdue Extension Elkhart County. Contact her at lienhart@purdue.edu or 574-533-0554.
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