JEFF TIEDEMAN: Fruit of the vineThreat of frost puts tomatoes on the front canning burner.
Anyone who raises vegetables around here knows this is crunch time.
With the chance of frost looming, gardeners are scrambling to pick items that are susceptible to temperatures less than 32 degrees. For me, that most notably means tomatoes.
Long gone are the days when maybe only one or two of the tasty red orbs is ripe for the picking. With 36 plants, it’s not unusual for me to pick a bowl or two of luscious, home-grown tomatoes daily.
Just in the past two weeks, I’ve canned nearly 40 pints of salsa, a dozen quarts of juice and 30-plus pints of whole tomatoes. We’ve also eaten several servings of fresh salsa (with chips), three or four batches of marinara sauce (using cherry tomatoes, skins and all) served over pasta), a couple of meals that featured BLTs and numerous plates of sliced tomatoes.
While some people would be ready to throw in the towel after that sort of run, I’m not. (Do you remember what store-bought, winter tomatoes taste like?) I plan on canning more salsa, juice and possibly some spaghetti sauce.
And after talking to my visiting brother, Kevin, and his wife, Lynn, I’m craving a Caprese salad (a favorite of theirs), which contains thinly sliced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar. (See recipe at www.grandforksherald.com/ event/tag/group/ Life/tag/food/.)
Healthwise, there are a lot of good reasons to eat tomatoes, including the following:
— Tomatoes contain awesome amounts of lycopene, thought to have the highest antioxidant activity of all the carotenoids.
— A diet rich in tomato-based products may help reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer. Researchers found that lycopene (provided mainly by tomatoes) was linked to a 31 percent reduction in pancreatic cancer risk.
— Tomatoes contain all three high-powered antioxidants: beta carotene and vitamins E and C. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report, “What We Eat in America”, noted than a third of us get too little vitamin C and almost half get too little vitamin A.
— Tomatoes are rich in potassium. A cup of juice contains 534 milligrams of potassium, and ½ cup of tomato sauce has 454 milligrams.
— Tomatoes are a big part of the Mediterranean Diet. It has been found that people who most closely follow this eating plan have lower death rates from heart disease and cancer.
— When breast-feeding moms eat tomato products, it increases the concentration of lycopenein in their breast milk.
And if that’s not enough, they taste pretty good, too!
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.