Let’s Talk Food: Versatile tomatoes

  • Photo courtesy Audrey Wilson Local vine ripened tomatoes from Mountain View.

The tomato is an edible berry in the nightshade family, the plant Solanum lycocopericum and originated from Western South America, Mexico, and Central America. It comes from the Mexican Nahuatl word tomatl.

Tomatoes are known for the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to the reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. The redder the tomato, the more lycopene it has. It is interesting to note that tomatoes may protect against sunburn. According to one study, people who ingested 1.3 ounces or 40 grams of tomato paste, which provides 16 milligrams of lycopene, along with olive oil every day for 10 weeks, experienced 40% fewer sunburns.


Beta carotene, another antioxidant, is converted to vitamin A in our bodies.

The flavonoid narigenin has been shown to decrease inflammation and protect against various diseases in a study with mice.

The powerful antioxidant chlorogenic acid may lower blood pressure in people with elevated levels

One small raw tomato contains 18 calories, 95% water, 0.9 grams protein, 3.9 grams of carbs, 2.6 grams of sugar, and 1.2 grams of dietary fiber. It contains vitamins C, K1, B9 and potassium.

Look for vine ripened tomatoes as commercially grown tomatoes are harvested and transported when they are still green and immature. Naturally, when tomatoes start to ripen, they produce a gaseous hormone called ethylene. So when tomatoes are picked in mass, the green ones are sprayed with artificial ethylene gas to ripen them. But when that is done, the natural flavors are compromised.

If you have green tomatoes, wrap them in a sheet of newspaper and keep them on the kitchen counter for a few days, just checking them daily for ripeness.

• • •

Here’s a great soup for the warmer days to come from Eating Well magazine:

Gazpacho with Scallop Brochettes

Serves 4

2 cups chopped tomatoes (5 medium)

1-1/2 cups chopped bell pepper

1-1/2 cups chopped English cucumber

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper plus 1/8 teaspoon, divided

1 cup cubed whole-wheat country bread, crust removed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1-1/4 pounds sea scallops, dry and tough side muscle removed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest

Combine tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, onion, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a blender. Pulse until finely chopped. Transfer 1 cup of the mixture to a large bowl. Add bread and oil to the blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to the bowl, stir, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, reheat grill to medium-high.

Thread scallops onto 8 skewers. Season with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Grill, flipping once, until opaque in the center, about 5 minutes.

Combine butter and lime zest in a small bowl and brush the hot scallops with the mixture. Serve the gazpacho with the scallops.

Avocado Tomato Salad

Serves 6

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Salad:

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, quartered and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/4 red onion, finely chopped

2 ripe avocados, diced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Make the dressing:

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Set aside

Make the salad:

In a serving bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion. Toss with dressing to coat. Add the diced avocados and gently toss to coat. Serve immediately.

• • •

Have an abundance of plum tomatoes? Roasted tomatoes would be a great way to cook them.

Roasted Tomatoes

12 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, cored and seeds removed

4 tablespoons good quality olive oil

1-1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Arrange the tomatoes on a sheet pan, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle the garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper over the tomatoes.

Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are concentrated and beginning to caramelize. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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