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
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
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 red onion, chopped
10 basil leaves
10 vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved
Very large handful parsley, finely chopped
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.
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.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Refrigerate: 15 mins
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
Tomatoes are the humblest of superfoods. Simple yet nurturing. Itâ€™s no wonder we are all tomato-struck