It’s the end of August and we are in the height of the tomato harvest. It is a veritable tomato tsunami with the bountiful abundance of tomatoes this year. And, as always the question arises is the tomato a fruit or vegetable? Definitely, the tomato is a fruit. The French sometimes refer to the tomato as pomme d’amour, meaning “love apple.” In Italy, the tomato is sometimes referred to as “pomodoro” or “golden apple,” most likely referring to tomato varieties that were yellow/orange/tangerine in color.
Regardless of its name, the tomato is a wonderfully popular and versatile food that comes more than a thousand different varieties that vary in shape, size, and color. There are the biggie beefsteak tomatoes, small cherry and grape tomatoes, bright yellow tomatoes, Romas ~ the Italian pear-shaped tomatoes, and the green tomato famous for its fried preparation in Southern cuisine. The term “heirloom tomato” is sometimes quite confusing, as the heirloom refers to seeds from tomato cultivars that have been handed down from family to family.
Tomatoes are a treasure of riches when it comes to their antioxidant benefits. In terms of conventional antioxidants, tomatoes provide an excellent amount of vitamin C and beta-carotene; a very good amount of the mineral manganese; and a good amount of vitamin E. Fresh tomatoes and tomato extracts have been shown to help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Reduced risk of heart disease is an area of health benefits in which tomatoes truly excel. There are two basic lines of research that have repeatedly linked tomatoes to heart health. The first line of research involves antioxidant support; the second line involves regulation of fats in the bloodstream.
Choose tomatoes that have rich colors. Deep reds are a great choice, but so are vibrant oranges/tangerines, brilliant yellows, and rich purples. Tomatoes of all colors provide outstanding nutrient benefits. Tomatoes should be well shaped and smooth skinned with no wrinkles, cracks, bruises, or soft spots. Ripe tomatoes will yield to slight pressure and will have a noticeably sweet fragrance.
Although tomatoes are often closely associated with Italian cuisine, they are native to the western side of South America, in the region occupied by Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and the western half of Bolivia. The Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador are also believed to be part of tomatoes’ native area, as in Mexico where it is believed to have been first cultivated.
For an excellent use of tomatoes in their high season, there is an endless wealth of recipes to choose from ~ from a variety of gazpacho soups to baked stuffed tomatoes, sauces, and salsas. Here is a perfect summer recipe to whittle down your stock of tomatoes and please every member of your family.
Summer Tomato Jam
- 2 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
- 1 cup sweet onion sliced
- 1 Tbsp. coriander seed
- 8-10 whole allspice
- 1 tsp. fennel seed
- 1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 cups Roma or plum tomatoes* cored, seeded and diced
- ¼ cup sherry vinegar
- ⅓ cup honey
- Sea salt to taste
In a small saucepan heat the oil over medium heat and add onion.
Cook for 2 minutes until the onion is softened.
Add the spices, heating the aromatics for 1-2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, vinegar, and honey and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer the jam for 10 minutes.
Remove the lid and continue cooking until the liquid evaporates and the juices thicken, becoming jam-y.
Remove from heat and let cool. Season the jam with salt and pepper to taste.
*For a variegated jam, use the Roma tomatoes with some yellow cherry tomatoes.
Recipe courtesy of Effie’s.
Enjoy and Bon Appétit!