The “Greens and Beans” page was created as a space to share nutrition information and recipe ideas for the bounty of life giving plants foods that we grow and make available to our community. It is for individuals who are interested in cooking and eating with the seasons.
MY IDUSTRIAL TOMATO
Step right up and get your perfectly symmetrical, red tomato. It was picked green by a machine, packed into a cardboard box and shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to reach us. Don’t worry, this tomato was bred deliberately to withstand these exact conditions and still reach us perfectly symmetrical and red. All that was sacrificed was the flavor.
Hybridization did not exist until the early 1950’s. Up until that time, families selected tomatoes for a variety of desirable traits which always included flavor. They saved the seed each season to ensure these varieties were passed down from generation to generation.
The family heirloom tomato is how we refer to them today, in order to distinguish them from “industrialized” tomatoes. They are often called “ugly tomatoes”, “antique tomatoes”, “heritage tomatoes” or “mystery tomatoes”. There are so many shapes, colors, sizes and textures and all of them have flavor.
Well, there is a bit more to the story here. Flavor is not all that is being lost through hybridization of our plant foods. We lose diversity. Yup that’s a biggy. It is a direct threat to our food supply. Allow your mind to ride my drama-queen-brain-wave for just a few moments. Think of it in terms of the Irish Potato Famine. Were potatoes really the only thing they grew and ate? No, but most of the land was planted with “the simple potato” destined for export. Within six months of the first crop failure people began to starve to death and in the end over 1 million of them did. Over the past couple of decades, our food industry (the Bristish if you will) is dictating what we (the Irish) consume. We are losing diversity, nutrients, and flavor quickly. The question I have for you is “Are we as helpless as the Irish were?”.
Do I think we are all going to starve to death if we do not protest hybrid tomatoes? No I do not. However, it does scare me how quickly and easily we have forgotten what a real tomato tastes like.
Every heirloom variety is gentically unique. Each has evolved in it’s own specific growing conditions where it is able to resist the diseases and pests that exist in the same tiny corner of the universe.
It is up to us a gardeners and responsible stewards of the earth to assure we sustain the diversity gifted to us through heirloom varieties.
On a lighter note, below is a list of what we cooked up at last weeks Greens and Beans coooking club meeting.
Tomato, Avacado and Corn Salsa
Tomato and White Beans Soup
Sliced Tomato with Mozzarella and Basil and
we dressed up our mixed greens salad with
Tomato Vinegrette Dressing.
Let’s Talk Nutrition
Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K. They are also a very good source of molybdenum, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, chromium, and vitamin B1. In addition, tomatoes are a good source of vitamin B6, folate, copper, niacin, vitamin B2, magnesium, iron, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, vitamin E and protein.
Whenever a discussion comes up about the health benefits of the tomato, most of us think of the phytonutrient Lycopene. Lycopene has a reputation as a cancer-fighting antioxidant. A ton of research had been conducted to study this effect and not just on rats, on humans as well. The antioxidant function of lycopene is known to help protect against prostrate, breast, endometrial, lung and pancreatic cancers.
Lycopene is a fat soluble carotenoid which means in order to get the protective benefits of the tomato, you need to consume them with a fat. Olive oil, cheese, avocado or nuts are some good options.
The color of the tomatoes has also been studies for lycopene content. A slightly higher amount can be found in the dark red and dark purple varieties.
I recommend buying organic. Not just because I am an organic farmer but also because the organic tomatoes were found to contain much higher amounts of Lycopene. Up to 5 times as much in some studies.
Step right up and get your plump, juicy, deep red colored, vine-ripened, hand-picked, local organic heirloom tomato.