tomato_fruit

Tomato time

Tomatoes are the humblest of superfoods. Simple yet nurturing. It’s no wonder we are all tomato-struck. There’s so much goodness hiding behind their pulpy, cherry cheeks, you’d have to be extremely thick-skinned to pass them up. In the height of tomato season when they’re ripe for the picking, there’s nothing more enjoyable than reaching into your tomato bucket, grabbing one and biting into its delicious flesh, letting the juices run down your chin and experiencing their vine-ripened goodness and voluptuousness. And the good news is it’s really easy to grow your own, as there are literally hundreds of varieties to choose from. From Plum to Cherry, Beefsteak to Roma, the options for tomato heaven are limitless.

In reality a fruit, tomatoes are one of most versatile of foods at the table and can be used for sauce, baked, slow-roasted, used raw, made into soups, squished into dips and even blended into sorbets and puddings. I like to slow-roast them in the oven with garlic, rosemary and olive oil and then add them to salads and healthy wraps. They add bonus flavour to so many dishes, too, such as stirfries, stews, bologneses and omelettes.

Did you know that one medium-sized tomato provides 50 per cent of your daily vitamin C intake? Tomatoes contain high levels of beta-carotene, a vital antioxidant that is converted in the body to vitamin A. Other valuable sources of beta-carotene include dark green and orange-yellow vegetables, such as carrots, pumpkin, squash, spinach, broccoli, apricots and capsicum. Beta-carotene provides immune system support and is a good preventative against cancer and heart disease.

If you want healthy skin, shiny hair and strong nails without having to eat bunches of carrots, look no further than the humble tomato. Cooking and condensing them into dips or sauces is a great way to get your daily intake of antioxidants, in particular lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that gives tomato its deep red colour. Antioxidants are intimately involved in the prevention of cellular damage and protect the body against the destructive effects of free radicals, which can be flushed out of the body with high levels of lycopene. When tomatoes are heated, the lycopene bioavailability increases rather than decreases, so cooked tomatoes are richer in lycopene than raw.

To ripen tomatoes, place them in a brown paper bag and leave them at room temperature until they ripen, which usually happens within a day or two. If you’ve got a beautiful, boisterous, vine-ripened tomato, don’t lesson its flavour by storing it in the refrigerator — that won’t do it justice. Store ripe tomatoes in a cool place and they should stay fresh for up to five days. If you’ve cut tomatoes, the best place to store them is in the fridge. 

 

Tomato Stuffed with Spinach, Onion & Pistachio Nuts

Serve up some freshness for breakfast with these delicious stuffed tomatoes. It will make the first meal of the day delightful. And if you plan ahead, you can make them the night before and then just pop them into the oven to reheat the following morning.

 

Makes 5–6 tomatoes

Prep time: 7 mins

Cook time: 23 minutes

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup chopped onion

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

5–6 large organic tomatoes

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

1 cup basil leaves

½ cup shelled, chopped pistachio nuts

1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (optional)

½ cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil

3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp lemon rind

Celtic sea salt & black pepper to taste

 

How to prepare

Preheat oven to 180ºC. In a little olive oil, sauté onion and garlic until brown. Scoop out flesh of tomatoes and set aside.

Put all remaining ingredients into a food processor, adding olive oil slowly, and mix, seasoning to taste. Place in baking tray and drizzle with a little EV olive oil. Place in oven on middle shelf for 20–25 minutes until cooked through.

 

Tomato & Red Onion Salad with Quinoa

Comforting and heaven on your tongue, this simple salad can be made in just minutes if you have some ready-made quinoa in the fridge. This is the perfect pot-luck dish to take picnicking under a cloudless sky and is a very well-behaved travelling companion. You can also experiment with ingredients and add your favourite vegetables such as kale, zucchini or squash. Quinoa is now readily available in the healthfood section of your supermarket or at your local healthfood store.

 

Makes 4–6 servings

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 0 minutes

Ingredients

2 cups cooked quinoa

1 red onion, chopped

10 basil leaves

10 vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved

Very large handful parsley, finely chopped

Dressing

2–3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup lemon juice

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon sea salt

 

How to prepare

Place the quinoa in a serving bowl and add the onion, basil, tomatoes and parsley. To make the dressing, combine the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Pour over the quinoa salad and toss to coat thoroughly. Serve and enjoy.

 

Chilled Gazpacho

Enjoy a late-summer supper with this hearty chilled soup originating from Spain in the southern region of Andalucia. Blending the raw flavours of garden-fresh cucumber, tomato and capsicum with the brightness of apple cider vinegar and lemon, it’s best enjoyed with crusty gluten-free bread. It will replenish vitamins and minerals that are usually lost after a busy day and is cool and refreshing on a summer eve.

 

Serves 4

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Refrigerate: 15 mins

 

Ingredients

900g fresh tomatoes (about 6)

1 red capsicum

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 English cucumber, peeled & seeded, divided

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Pinch cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp Celtic sea salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

 

How to prepare

Preheat grill to medium–high. Place tomatoes and capsicum under the grill, turning to brown and crisp them all over. Let cool and peel off skin from tomatoes and capsicum, discarding seeds from capsicum. Place in blender and add ½ cucumber, garlic, parsley, yeast flakes, apple cider vinegar and cayenne, season and blend, slowly adding oil until smooth. Remove from blender, place in a bowl and refrigerate. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with left-over cucumber and serve.

 

Lee Holmes runs Supercharged Food, an altruistic website helping you to expand your range of healthy food choices and plan ahead to create and maintain a satisfying, wholesome and nourishing diet. Visit the website at www.superchargedfood.com or the blog at www.supercharged1.wordpress.com

Tomato time

By: Lee Holmes

Tomatoes are the humblest of superfoods. Simple yet nurturing. It’s no wonder we are all tomato-struck


Servings

Prep time

Cook time

Recipe


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Tried this recipe? Mention @wellbeing_magazine or tag #wbrecipe!

Lee Holmes

Lee Holmes

Lee Holmes is a nutritionist, yoga and meditation teacher, wholefoods chef, Lifestyle Food Channel’s Healthy Eating Expert, blogger and author of the best-selling books Supercharged Food: Eat Your Way to Health, Supercharged Food: Eat Yourself Beautiful, Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian, Heal your Gut, Eat Right for Your Shape and Supercharged Food for Kids.

Lee’s food philosophy is all about S.O.L.E. food: sustainable, organic, local and ethical. Her main goal is to alter the perception that cooking fresh, wholesome, nutrient-rich meals is difficult, complicated and time-consuming. From posting recipes, her passion to share her autoimmune disease story and help others has snowballed and the blog has recently taken home the overall prize at the Bupa Health Influencer Awards as well as the best blog in the Healthy Eating category. She also runs a four-week online Heal Your Gut program.

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What you need to about tomatoes

 

The tomato is one of the most widely eaten fruits in the world. It goes by the saucy name of “love apple” in France, but despite its current widespread popularity, the tomato (Solanum lycospersicum) is a fruit with a checkered history. Its origins are in southern and Central America and it wasn’t until the 1500s with the help of Spanish explorers that it began to slowly spread throughout Europe, North America, Asia and eventually Australia.

With such a delicious taste and versatile nature, you would expect that it became an overnight hit, but due to some confusion about identity, it was initially scorned as a poison. The first European botanist to identify it mistakenly took it for a poisonous plant mentioned by Galen in the 3rd century. In fact, its botanic name translates to “wolf peach” because of its allegedly dangerous effects. This meant for many years its deliciousness was not recognised and the tomato was used only as an ornamental addition to gardens.

 

Family ties

Not surprisingly, given its origins, the tomato plant does well in moderately warm climates with no frost. It is, in fact, a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family alongside capsicum, chilli, eggplant and potato. Another reason for the tomato’s slow rise to popularity is the fact that tobacco, mandrake and belladonna (deadly nightshade) are also part of this plant family, thus leading to further suspicion of a possibly poisonous nature.

Many people still believe the tomato is bad for you because of the similarities to its Solanaceae cousins. So is there anything to all this talk of the toxic tomato? The best way to answer this is to look at this fruit’s active chemical components. There are three main ones: flavonoids, saponins and alkaloids. The first component, the flavonoid, is widely recognised as an antioxidant. It is found throughout plants of red or yellow colour and so is abundant in the tomato. It also has the advantage of being anti-inflammatory to your body.

The tomato’s second active constituent is the saponin. This substance can have an irritant effect, especially in larger quantities, because of its detergent–like action. For some people, this can lead to inflammation, though for most people the saponins in tomatoes actually assist with the absorption of nutrients such as calcium and silica, both helpful for healthy bones.

The final component of note, the alkaloid, is the most controversial of the three. It is found in as many as 30 per cent of all flowering plants and is the common link to other members of the Solanaceae family. It definitely has toxic properties but, as with the potato, these disappear as the plant ripens — yet another good reason for choosing vine-ripened tomatoes at the shop or growing your own.

With all this in mind, though, some people do have sensitivities to this plant family. Despite its anti-inflammatory and digestive advantages for most, it is not uncommon for certain conditions to be exacerbated by tomatoes and its cousins — capsicum, chilli, eggplant and potato. Most notably, arthritis sufferers seem to be more prone to this sensitivity than others.

 

Healing tomatoes

As mentioned, tomatoes are bursting with antioxidants known as flavonoids. Antioxidants mop up damaging free radicals in your body, which are created day to day and increase through bad food, stress and exposure to toxins. These free radicals speed up the ageing process and increase the chances of mutant cells leading to cancer. There is no surprise then that the tomato is thought to be linked to protection from various cancers, including colon, breast, stomach, liver, skin and prostate.

There has been a great deal in the media in recent years regarding a specific antioxidant flavonoid of the tomato: lycopene. It has been specifically linked to protection against prostate cancer and, interestingly, is better absorbed by the body if cooked with a little oil. So a freshly cooked pasta sauce with a little olive oil is fantastic for your tastebuds and your health.

A further benefit gained from this antioxidant action seems to be for the cardiovascular system. This is because it helps to prevent the damaging effects of oxidised fats in the body. The results are a reduced chance of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries and a healthier heart.

Aside from these antioxidants, tomatoes are brimming with great levels of vitamins C and A. These two assist the immune and nervous systems and are helpful for healthy mucous membranes, including the sinuses and lungs.

 

Using your tomato

Growing your own tomato is always going to be the best for taste and health. Not only will it be free of nasty pesticides, but you can pick it just before use at it ripest thus maximising nutrients. Obviously, this isn’t always possible, so choosing vine-ripened tomatoes is your next best option. Look for firm tomatoes with a deep red or yellow colour, depending on the variety. Don’t forget to smell them — the better the smell, the better the taste.

Storage is better in a cool place out of the fridge, but if the weather is too hot to manage this, make sure you take your tomatoes out of the fridge for at least an hour before use. This will enhance their flavour and texture.

Although canning doesn’t reduce the flavonoid effects, fresh is definitely better. This is because tomatoes are an acidic fruit and so more likely to leach nasties from tins. If you do choose canned, keep in mind that there are plenty of organic brands with no added salt or sugar for little extra cost.

 

Rowena York is a Melbourne naturopath, herbalist and nutritionist with a particular interest in food as medicine. row_y@hotmail.com

Find out everything you need to know about growing tomatoes and fresh produce in your garden on Complete Home

What you need to about tomatoes

By: The WellBeing Team

Despite belonging to a distinctly shady family and not being popular to begin with, new research is showing that tomatoes are a powerful healing tool as well as being tasty on bruschetta.


Servings

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Cook time

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Tried this recipe? Mention @wellbeing_magazine or tag #wbrecipe!

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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