April is National Florida Tomato Month! Usually associated with the summer months, tomatoes can be grown and harvested year round in Florida. It has long been debated as to whether tomatoes are a fruit or a vegetable, and the truth is, there is no definitive answer. While tomatoes are technically a fruit because of their seeds, in 1893 the Supreme Court actually deemed tomatoes a vegetable because of their savory nature so they can be characterized as either.
According to a popular website for tomato lovers, Tomato Casual, the largest tomato ever grown weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces. If sliced, a tomato that size could make sandwiches for 12 people! There are literally hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, but the most popular varieties are cherry, beefsteak and Roma.
Tomatoes are a functional food, meaning they have powerful antioxidants that can help protect against many types of cancer. Canned tomatoes actually contain a higher concentration of the antioxidant lycopene, an antioxidant associated with reduced risk of prostate cancer. They have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and enhance the immune system. Tomatoes are packed with vitamins, especially A and C, are naturally very low in fat, and they are very versatile.
It’s easy and simple to include fresh tomatoes in your diet:
- Drizzle olive oil over sliced fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Top with
chopped basil to make a Caprese salad.
- Dice some tomatoes and avocadoes and top with vinaigrette for a quick and easy salad.
- Order a Bruschetta appetizer next time you go out for Italian food.
- Pico de Gallo, a tomato based salsa, is great for dipping tortilla chips or for spicing up salads and sandwiches.
- Toss tomatoes into any salad or omelet to enhance the color of and add nutrients to your dish.
For the perfect tomato, choose those with deep, rich colors and avoid any that look puffy or wrinkly. They should also give a little when lightly squeezed. To increase the shelf life of your tomatoes, make sure to keep them at room temperature away from direct sunlight, not in the fridge. They should last you about a week. If your tomatoes do get a little mushy, you can always use them in a sauce or toss them into any vegetable-based soup.
Photos: Rachel Weidt