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All about tomatoes

It wouldn’t be summer without fresh and juicy tomatoes. Tomatoes are the star in many dishes, not just for their taste but also because of their health benefits.  Use the tips and recipes below for some quick, nutritious and delicious dishes.

Nutrition spotlight!

Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C and a source of vitamin A and folate

Tomatoes are also a source of lycopene, an antioxidant. Lycopene is what gives tomatoes and other red foods their colour. Some research suggests that eating tomatoes and tomato products like canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer

Hint: Cooked tomatoes have more lycopene than raw tomatoes.

Buying local 

Field tomatoes are grown in Ontario and are available from July until October. Look for the Foodland Ontario logo to know if you are buying Ontario tomatoes. When you buy local food, you support farmers so they can keep producing high quality, affordable food we can all enjoy.

Shopping and storing

Tomatoes come in many shapes, sizes and colours. In Ontario, more than 300 kinds of field tomatoes are grown. Some types of tomatoes are better for certain dishes than others. Here are the three categories of tomatoes and how they can be used:

  • Round (or slicing): Use raw in salads and sandwiches. 
  • Plum (or Roma): Use for preserves, sauces and paste. (Less juicy than round tomatoes)
  • Beefsteak: Use for both raw and cooked dishes. (Less juicy than round tomatoes)

Look for ripe tomatoes that are firm, but not too hard. They should feel heavy when you pick them up. To ripen tomatoes at home, store in a paper bag with an apple or pear. 

Tomatoes taste best when they are stored and served at room temperature, where they should keep for at least a week. Keep away from direct sunlight. Only place tomatoes in the fridge when they start to get too ripe or on days that are extremely hot.

Did you know? Tomatoes are more than just red. Look for tomatoes that are pink, yellow, orange, white and striped. These are sometimes called heirloom tomatoes.

What are greenhouse tomatoes?

Greenhouse tomatoes are also called hot house tomatoes. They can be grown in colder months because the greenhouse helps control the temperature, moisture and soil conditions that the tomatoes are grown in.

Look for greenhouse tomatoes that are heavy, plump, firm and even-shaped. To know if a tomato is ripe, look for a star-shaped marking on the bottom of the plant. These are ready for eating.

When are greenhouse tomatoes in season? 

Ontario greenhouse tomatoes are available from March until November. Look for the Foodland Ontario logo to know if the tomatoes you buy are from a farm in Ontario.

Preparing

Here are some tips for getting the best results when preparing tomatoes:

  • Slice tomatoes from top to bottom so that they stay juicy. 
  • To remove seeds, cut the tomato in half (sideways is best) and then squeeze gently. 
  • To peel tomatoes, cut an “x” into the bottom, dip in boiling water for 10 to 30 seconds and then place in ice cold water. When cool enough to handle, use a knife to gently peel away the skin.
  • Cook tomatoes in pans with non-reactive surfaces, such as enamel and stainless steel. The acid in tomatoes will react with pans that are made of aluminum and non-stainless steel and create a bitter aftertaste. Do not use copper as the reaction can be toxic.

Did you know? In North America, the delicious tomato used to be a plant that people grew because it was pretty, not because they wanted to eat it! It wasn’t until the 1900s that it started to become popular in cooking. 

Recipes

Minestrone Soup

Chunky Tomato Salsa, Foodland Ontario

Tomato and Fish Gazpacho Salad, Foodland Ontario

Moroccan Chickpeas and Couscous, Foodland Ontario

Need to know how much to buy for a recipe? Keep these numbers in mind:

3 to 4 small tomatoes = 1 lb/500 g

4 L basket = 6 lbs/2.5 kg

For more Ontario vegetables and fruit:

All about rhubarb

All about asparagus

All about carrots

All about corn

Last Update – April 25, 2017

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