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VOL. 37 | NO. 34 | Friday, August 23, 2013

Tomato overcomes ‘poison’ label to flourish

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recipe

Tomato, Avocado
and Mozzarella Crostini

 1 baguette bread

 1/3 cup of olive oil

2 tsp of garlic, minced

Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thin

2 avocades, mashed

1-1/2 cups of Roma tomatoes, diced

2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup of basil, fresh chopped

Fresh grated Parmesan cheese   

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the bread into 1/4-inch thick diagonal pieces. In a small bowl, combine the garlic and the olive oil. Brush the bread slices lightly with garlic oil and then arrange them on sheet pans in a single layer. Bake them for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they’re crisp and golden brown. Remove them from the oven and then layer cheese slices on top of them. Mash the avocados. In a separate bowl, combine the tomato, the olive oil, the salt, the pepper and the basil. To serve, spread the crostini with about one tablespoon of avocado, top with tomato-basil mixture, and garnish with fresh basil and grated Parmesan.

 

Cherry, Big Boys, Grape, Beefsteak, Brandywine, Plum - homegrown tomatoes are here, and I, for one, am plum tickled. One of my favorite ways of eating one is between two slices of Wheatberry bread with nothing but mayo, salt and pepper; however, that might be a toss up with sliced on a plate sandwiched between real mozzarella, fresh basil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and then drizzled with olive oil. Yum, yum!

Science tries to perfect everything in our lives, and sometimes is successful; however, Mother Nature seems to have the upper hand on tomato growing. I’m not demeaning "hydro-phonically grown tomatoes" in any way, but, there’s no comparison to a fresh, ripe, just-picked-from-the-garden, Mother Nature-grown tomato. Yet, to give credit where credit is due, due to science and hybridizing, tomatoes grown in the garden today are nothing like the tomatoes our ancestors grew. That’s a plus.

About 30 years ago, growers began working to improve the quality of tomatoes. Today, there are more varieties offering bigger and better tasting tomatoes. These include: hybrids, or open-pollinated; small cherry, grape, or large beefsteak; sweet or mouth-puckering; determinate or indeterminate – the list goes on.

You can also find Heirloom Tomatoes. I have not yet grown accustomed to eating these simply because of their color – although I have tried them. When it comes to food, I’ll try almost anything once. There are pink ones (that look unripe), purple ones, gold ones, orange ones, and even black ones. They’re strange-looking for sure, but they’re also tasty – if you can get past the odd color.

The Aztecs and Incas first grew tomatoes in 700 AD, but it was the explorers who brought seeds into Europe and then to America. The tomato was believed poisonous until 1820, when Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson disproved it during a public demonstration in Salem, N.J. In France, after the poison myth was dismissed, the tomato was considered an aphrodisiac, with the name changed to "pomme d’amour," or "love apple." Known in the U.S. simply as the tomato, it’s the world’s most popular fruit - and yes, I did say fruit. Botanically speaking, the tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable.

With more than 60 million tons of tomatoes produced per year, that’s 16 million tons more than the second most popular fruit, the banana. I know; in a previous article, I said bananas were No. 1. Well, that’s in America; the tomato is No. 1 in the world.

And that’s good news, especially to men and their hearts. Lycopene, a nutrient found in tomatoes, has been proven to be twice as powerful as beta-carotene in destroying free radicals, which promotes aging and cancer. In fact, a study of 5,500 Italians revealed that eating plenty of raw tomatoes lowers the risk of digestive tract cancer. But the really good news is that you don’t have to ingest the tomatoes raw, if that doesn’t suit your fancy – ketchup offers lycopene in a concentrated form, so you get a bigger dose of it at once. However, I know the most popular way to consume ketchup is with a "side" of French fries, and I’m not sure you’re benefitting anything that way. Maybe chose a healthier food if you want to gobble ketchup.

Most tomatoes found at the grocery store are firm but not yet fully ripe. However, under the right conditions, tomatoes ripen in flavor and aroma. Select tomatoes at varying degrees of ripeness and keep them at between 55-70 degrees. Use the ripest fruit first, and never refrigerate those that are not fully ripe, as the cold ruins the flavor and halts the ripening process.

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