Food and Fitness Fundamentals
In spite of this year’s delayed start to the growing season, tomatoes finally reached their peak of harvest. Along with now having an abundance of picked ripened tomatoes from your garden, you can also still salvage the remaining ones on the vine if picked soon and stored properly.
Ideally, the perfect time to harvest is early morning and when the fruit is bright red and rich with flavor. However, when daytime temperatures consistently fall below 60 degrees F, the ripening process is inhibited and it is now time to harvest your last crop especially before heavy rains and frost set in. There are several ways to ripen tomatoes indoors.
The following is a method I have used with good success:
Wash and dry fruit thoroughly, then gently wrap each tomato in newspaper, and place in a container no more than 2 rows deep. Store fruit in a dark room/garage ideally at temperatures ranging 55-68 degrees F. Check tomatoes daily for ripeness and discard any that show signs of disease or spoiling. This process allows you to continue to enjoy your fresh homegrown tomatoes weeks after harvest. Storing tomatoes in the refrigerator is not recommended as it adversely affects flavor and softens the fruit.
If you are wondering what to do with your current stockpile of ripe tomatoes, you have many options. Dehydrating, freezing and canning tomatoes are all wonderful ways to preserve your produce. Here’s some additional late season harvest techniques or learn more about how to store, preserve and enjoy tomatoes.
Just remember to use food safety precautions to ensure both healthy meals and happy guests.
Whether you have grown your own tomatoes or purchase them from local farmers markets, take time to enjoy the bounty of the season. Tomatoes are very low in calories and fat, yet are a terrific source of nutrition. They offer great sources of Vitamin C, potassium, folate, iron, calcium and manganese. They are also rich in phytochemicals such as lycopene and carotenoids. Studies have shown these powerful antioxidants aid in prevention of several cancers, reduced LDL cholesterol, diabetes, and osteoporosis and help protect skin damage from UV rays. Lycopene is best absorbed by the body when consumed with fat, such as olive oil.
One of my favorite ways to eat fresh tomatoes
Slice one large tomato in half
Drizzle small amount of balsamic vinegar over cut edge
Layer fresh mozzarella cheese on top, followed by panko bread crumbs and a small amount of sprinkled melted butter or margarine to aid in browning.
Place under broiler until cheese is melted and bread crumbs are toasted.
Garnish with freshly chopped basil on top for that extra layer of flavor.
Then simply enjoy! It is a fast, healthy and oh so tasty small meal, side dish or snack anytime of the day.
For more information on tomatoes, see tomatoesweb.com or fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov