See, it all started at my local produce store the other day. They were selling 20 lb cases of organic canning tomatoes for $15.
Never mind the fact I was hitchhiking back; I just couldn't resist buying one! lol Me and my tomatoes got a ride home no problem, and Don and I have been seeing (and eating!) red ever since.
So yes, Fall may be officially among us, but that's not to say we can't celebrate Summer's bounties one last time...
Know Your Tomato
Would you be surprised if I told you that the tomato is the world's most popular fruit? Yep, way ahead of the banana, who takes second place. Here are a few more interesting tidbits about this big favorite.
- Technically speaking, a tomato is a fruit, since it is the ripened ovary of a plant. However, in 1893, the US supreme court ruled that tomatoes were to be considered vegetables.
- Tomatoes were apparently first cultivated around 700 AD by Aztecs and Incas. They were then introduced into Europe sometime in the 1500s by explorers returning from Mexico.
- Being in the same family as the deadly nightshade plant, the early American colonists regarded the tomato as poisonous until the 1820s.
- Beefsteak, plum, cherry, heirloom, Green Zebra, roma... There is said to exist some 10,000 varieties of tomatoes.
- Don't store tomatoes in the refrigerator! Not only does it alter their delicate flavor, but the low temperatures also prevent enzymes from doing their job of protecting against free radicals inside the tomato. As a result, the radicals have a free ride, damaging the tomato by destroying its cell walls.
The good news is that tomatoes are as nutritious as they are delicious. They're rich in vitamins A and C, Calcium, Potassium and lycopene.
Lycopene - the stuff that makes tomatoes red - is one of the most potent nutritional antioxidants found to date, helping neutralize harmful free radicals, which are implicated in heart disease, macular degeneration and other age-related illnesses.
Research has shown that the consumption of tomatoes and tomato products also lowers the risks of several types of cancer, including those of the prostate, lung, stomach and breast.
Frankein-mato: Fact or Fiction?
Tomatoes that taste better, are more resistant to pests, contain a higher concentration of Vitamin A or lycopene, or that have a longer shelf life...
So tempting to 'play God' with genetic engineering in order to offer foods that are supposedly 'healthier' or 'better'. Sounds good, perhaps, but as they say "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."
FlavrSavr tomatoes were the first commercially grown GMO to hit the US market, back in 1994. While genetically engineered regular tomatoes and one cherry tomato have been approved for sale, it has been reported that GE tomatoes are no longer on the market.*
The Cornell Cooperative Extension explains on its site that "several genetically engineered varieties of tomatoes have been developed in the US and approved for commercialization, and some of them were available in a limited number of markets for a few years in the mid '90s. For a variety of reasons these GE tomatoes are no longer marketed, and there are currently no GE tomatoes present in US markets, either as whole tomatoes or in processed tomato foods."
However, we get quite a different perspective from this source, who suggests that several commercial brands of pasta and pizza sauces contain transgenic tomatoes, including Del Monte, Hunts and Ragu.
In any case, the only way to make sure your tomatoes haven't been tampered with is to buy organics or grow your own.
* For a complete list of genetically engineered food currently allowed on the market, have a look here.
Just Eat A Love Apple
Let us forget about frankeinfoods for now, and get back to the lovely, juicy, just-as-Nature-intended tomato.
When the heart-shaped fruit reached European shores in the 16th century, it was pronounced an aphrodisiac. Thus tomato in Italian, poma amoris, translates as "love apple."
Since those days, 'The Lady in Red' has seduced Chefs from around the world, but they ain't seen nothing yet! The much sought after tomato is sexier and tastier than ever 'in the raw'.
How about a juice to begin our exploration of tomato-based delicacies?
I liked that this recipe called for a blender, thereby retaining the pulp. The result was definitely closer to a soup in texture, in my opinion, so you could also serve it in a bowl. Yummy anyhow!
SPICY TOMATO JUICE
Posted on the Pretty Smart Raw Food Ideas blog
3 ripe tomatoes
1/2 red pepper
1 stalk celery
1 T nutritional yeast (optional)
1/2 t. onion powder
1/2 T. garlic powder
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
pinch ground black pepper
3 drops Tabasco (optional)
Process all ingredients in a high speed blender.
~ I used the white part of 1 green onion and 1 garlic clove instead of the powders.
~ I also replaced the Worcestershire sauce with a squirt of Braggs and Tabasco with a dash of cayenne.
Remember Campbell's Cream of Tomato Soup? Sure was one of our staples when I grew up. This next recipe sort of reminds me of it, only way better, of course!
Cream of Tomato Soup
2 cups tomatoes
2 cups red peppers
1/2 cup almonds or cashews, soaked
Juice of 1/2 large lime
1 tsp miso
Salt to taste
Fresh or dried basil (optional)
Water until desired consistency is reached
Blend until smooth, then taste. If it seems too acidic, add a little sweetener.
If desired, gently warm up on the stove, stirring constantly.
How could I feature the tomato without mentioning what is probably THE most famous raw soup in the world?
By Frederic Patenaude
2-3 ripe medium tomatoes, or 1 and 1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes (sweet is good!)
5-6 sun-dried tomatoes (soak 1-2 hours in advance)
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup cucumber
juice from 1 lime
1/2 clove garlic (optional)
pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
¼ cup of chopped red onion
First blend the tomatoes and sundried tomatoes. Then add in the other ingredients in the order listed, except for the red onion, which you’ll use to garnish your soup. Try to blend the last ingredients (after you’ve blended the tomatoes and sundried tomatoes) just enough so it’s liquid, but still chunky.
I was never the ketchup type, you know, drenching everything I ate with a big blob of the stuff. In fact, looking back, I wasn't a great fan of tomato sauce either. That completely changed, though, when I discovered raw foods.
Of all the raw tomato sauces I've tried, this remains the one I keep coming back to, again and again.
From Living on Live Food by Alissa Cohen
2 1/2 cups Tomatoes
12 Large Sundried Tomatoes, Soaked
3 Organic Dates, Pitted and Soaked
1/4 cup Olive Oil (I use less)
4 Cloves Garlic
2 tablespoons Parsley
1 teaspoon Celtic Sea Salt
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne
Place all of the Marinara ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
A couple of weeks ago, I was sharing with you the lovely RawVee's Sundried Tomato Bread. Here's another one of her tasty creations and my current favorite bread.
Badabing Bruschetta Bread
Posted by RawVee on Raw Freedom Community
One SAD food I adore is bruschetta. So last night I made what I call Bruschetta Bread. I tend to not measure. But I'll put approximate measurements. Really, I go by taste. This "dough" was so good I was eating it as I was spreading it onto the Teflex.
3 cups sprouted buckwheat
1 cup almonds, soaked 24 hours
1 cup flax seed, soaked
1 whole tomato
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, soaked
Big handful of raw cured black olives
4-5 garlic cloves to taste (I LOVE garlic, so you may want less)
Handful of fresh herbs (I used rosemary, oregano, spicy basis, thyme and marjoram)
Since I was dealing with a lot of "dough," I discovered after making a few batches that the easiest thing to do was to process the tomatoes, olives, garlic, olive oil and herbs together. Then blend in the buckwheat, flax and almonds. Otherwise things don't get mixed and chopped well enough.
I spread the mix onto Teflex sheets in a thin layer, and set them on 118 for the first 2 hours. (I've noticed that buckwheat can get kinda sour tasting if in the dehydrator too long at a low temp, so I turn it up at first). I then lowered it to 104 and went to bed. I woke up 7 hours later and realized I hadn't flipped the bread, but it was still perfect. And delicious. Makes great sandwich bread, dipping bread, etc.
Ever since I've discovered Cherie Soria's veggie wraps, I make a batch whenever I can lay my hands on cheap peppers or tomatoes. These are so delicious and light, and completely nut-free!
By Cherie Soria of Living Light Culinary Institute
Posted on rawhikes.com
Makes 12 wraps
5 cups tomatoes, seeds removed
3 cups seeded and chopped red bell peppers
2 cups chopped yellow zucchini
2 red jalapeño peppers, seeded
1 tablespoon red onion
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 to 2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon solar-dried sea salt
1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and mashed
3 tablespoons psyllium powder
¼ cup chopped cilantro, packed, optional
1. In a high-powered blender, purée the tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, jalapeño peppers, and red onion until smooth. Add the onion powder, garlic, and salt, and purée again. While blender is still turning, add the avocado, and then the psyllium powder, and blend well for a few seconds.
2. If desired, pulse in the cilantro until it is broken into pieces. Do not fully process; the cilantro should be in small pieces.
3. Using 1/2 cup of the mixture for each wrap, use a flat rubber spatula to quickly form four flat disks on a dehydrator tray lined with a nonstick sheet. Each disk should be about 7 inches in diameter, and they should not quite touch each other. Spread the wraps into round disks quickly, or the mixture will thicken and become difficult to spread.
4. Dehydrate at 105 degrees for about 4 hours, or until you can easily remove them from the nonstick sheets.
5. Turn the wraps over onto mesh dehydrator screens. Place an additional mesh screen on top of each tray of wraps. This makes them flatter and easier to store. Continue dehydrating another 3 to 4 hours, until dry but still flexible.
6. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or in the freezer for up to two months.
Carmella's Note: I've made a variation of these a number of times. They are terrific! Have a look here.
Last week, I thought I'd try something a little different: Pizza Crackers. I used Sundried Tomato Bread and Bruschetta Bread slices as crusts, then topped them with cashew cream cheese, pesto, the Sun-Dried Tomato Spread featured in The Daily Raw, fresh tomato or red pepper, and slivers of sundried black olives. Serve immediately or pop in the D for 1 hour. Delish!
On Sundried Tomato Bread ...
On Bruschetta Bread ...
I can always count on my friend, Joz, to send new recipe ideas my way. It took me a while to give tomato raviolis a try, but I'm so glad I did! This is yet another gem of a recipe; super easy to make, elegant and delicious.
For this recipe, you'll need:
Tomatoes of choice, sliced about 1/4" thick
Creamy Spinach Spread*
Creamy Spinach Spread
1 ½ cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 1 hour
½ cup pure water
1 garlic clove, minced (or to taste)
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 Tbsp Lemon juice
3 cups of spinach (we like it with lots of spinach but you could use less if you want)
Blend the first set of ingredients in your food processor or high-speed blender. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Then, in a (clean) food processor, pulse chop the spinach until finely minced. (You don't want a green mush though!)
Gently fold the spinach into the cream cheese by hand.
*Alternatively, you could use Anna/MaRaw of The Raw Table's excellent Herbed Cheese Filling.
Put a heaping teaspoon of spinach cheese filling between 2 tomato slices.
Dehydrate overnight at about 110 degrees.
Carmella's Note: I had a batch of tomato slices dehydrating already, so I just took a few out, loaded them up with cheese, then popped then back in the D for a few hours. Worked perfectly!
Dried Red Tomatoes
Finding a half-decent tomato in the middle of winter can be quite a challenge. I know Don and I will be saying goodbye to nice, fresh tomato slices on our sandwiches and burgers soon. Thankfully, we'll be able to continue enjoying marinaras and other treats calling for dried tomatoes.
For some reason, I thought that dehydrating tomatoes was involved and time consuming. Some folks at RFC assured me it wasn't the case at all, and you know what? They were right! There's nothing to it!
Home Dried Tomatoes
Depending on the size of your toms, you may want to cut them in halves or quarters, or make 1/4" thick slices.
Spread these directly on the mesh of your dehydrator.
If you like, you can brush your tomato slices with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle them with salt.
Set the D to 105 or 110 degrees, then let it do its thing.
~ After several hours, I made a cut down the middle of the tomato slices to expose the juicy flesh and allow it to dehydrate quicker. I also noticed that the edge parts had sort of shriveled on themselves, trapping the liquid inside. I did an X incision on those, so that the slices could lie flat on the screen.
~ During the dehydration process, I moved the tomato slices around as necessary; putting the wetter ones closer to the fan in back. This isn't necessary, but will help shorten dehydrating time.
When the tomatoes are thoroughly dried (which may take anywhere from overnight to 20 some hours, again depending on their sizes), store them in glass jars or ziplock baggies at room temperature or in the fridge. Alternatively, you can leave the tomatoes a little soft and store them in the freezer.
Joz's Tip: When a recipe calls for dried tomatoes, use half store-bought and half home-dried.
And lastly, there is no shortage of awesome recipes calling for tomatoes on this blog: Pad Thai Sauce, Sauerkraut Salad, Kale Patties, Luscious Lasagna, Mediterranean Almond Bread and the truly Amazing Tomato-Mango Dressing.
Ahhhhhh! Now I feel ready to move on to Fall, with its cooler days and colorful display of changing colors, with its pumpkins, squashes, apples and pears. And yet more fun discoveries awaiting me in my sunny raw kitchen...
Tomatoes by SeenyaRita
° t o m a t o ° by ° d i + m a r s °
A2Z of Health, Beauty and Fitness
California Tomato Growers Association
Mothers for Natural Law
Tomato Facts And Trivia by Pat Jacobs
Wikipedia on Tomato and Lycopene