LIVING WELL: To-may-toes, to-mah-toes
by Cecelia Hostilo, Columnist
Jul 17, 2013 | 109 109 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I am one of those weird people who have songs running through their head all the time. If you say something to me, I will most likely have a song to go along with the comment—that’s just how I am. So when you say tomatoes, my mind instantly goes to the musical “Shall We Dance” where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are on roller skates and sing that great Gershwin brothers song, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” “You like to-ma-toes, I like to-mah-toes...” I know, it’s silly, but that’s just me.

But I do like tomatoes, no matter how you pronounce the name. Tomatoes are easy to grow and grow well in containers or in the garden. You can start the plants indoors from seed about mid March, but you may have better success if you wait until May and buy plants ready to transplant. The best varieties for Kentucky are Better Boy, Celebrity, Jet Star, and Mountain Fresh.

Tomatoes, with their rich flavor and mild acidity, have worked their way into thousands of recipes.

You can eat them raw in salads, salsas or sandwiches, cook them to make sauces, stuff and bake

them or grill them on skewers with other vegetables. Select tomatoes that are brightly colored,

smooth skinned and heavy for their size. Summertime is the best season for tomatoes. Sizes vary from small, grape size to large, softball size. Colors also vary from greenish white to yellow with red being the most popular.

The most widely available varieties are classified in three groups: cherry, plum, and slicing tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are small in size and just right for snacking or adding to salads. They are usually rounded in shape, but may be slightly smaller and elongated. These are called grape tomatoes.

Slicing tomatoes are what many of us think of as traditional tomatoes. They are large, round and contain many seeds. These tomatoes are well suited for a great summertime sandwich, or just eating right off the vine! Plum tomatoes are often called Italian tomatoes and are larger than cherry tomatoes and also elongated. These tomatoes contain fewer seeds and are considered “meatier”. This characteristic makes them ideal for cooking and making sauces.

Tomatoes are actually a fruit, but eaten as a vegetable as they complement many of our vegetable dishes. Tomatoes are also nutritious. A medium size tomato contains only 25 calories and 20 mg of sodium. They are fat and cholesterol free, and a good source of potassium and vitamins A and C. They are also a good source of lycopene, a valuable antioxidant.

When purchasing tomatoes choose firm, well-shaped tomatoes that are fragrant and rich in color. Tomatoes should be free from blemishes, heavy for their size, and give slightly to pressure. Three to 4

medium tomatoes weigh about 1 pound. One pound of tomatoes yields about 2 1⁄2 cups of chopped tomatoes or 3 cups of wedges or sliced tomatoes.

Two common mistakes consumers make with tomatoes are trying to ripen them in the sun, which causes uneven ripening, and storing them in the refrigerator, which damages and inhibits flavor. Tomatoes should be stored out of direct sunlight and at a temperature above 55 degrees. Once

ripened, tomatoes can be stored in the refrigerator to extend their usage. You can quicken the ripening process by storing them in a paper bag.

Tomatoes can be prepared in several different ways. Always begin by washing fresh tomatoes in cool

running water.

• To peel: Place tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then transfer them to cold water. Skins will slip off.

• To seed: Scrape seeds away from the flesh with a pointed utensil. Avoid puncturing the skin.

• To slice: Slice lengthwise to retain the juice. A serrated knife works best.

• To broil: Cut tomatoes in half crosswise. Dot them with margarine and sprinkle with an herb mixture. Broil tomatoes until they are tender and topping is lightly browned.

• To bake: Cut tomatoes in half crosswise. Dot them with margarine and season as desired. Bake at 425°F for 10 to 15 minutes.

• To stuff: Cut off stem end and scoop out seeds and pulp. Sprinkle the cavity lightly with salt and turn it upside down on a paper towel to drain. Stuff the tomato with your favorite seafood, meat, or pasta salad.

• To microwave: Cut tomato in half crosswise. Dot it with margarine and season as desired. Microwave on high 3 to 4 minutes for four halves.

Be sure to check out the Cadiz/Trigg County Farmers Market every Wednesday and Saturday morning throughout the summer for the best tomatoes to be found anywhere in the area! Tomatoes can be a fresh addition to any meal!

For more information, contact Cecelia Hostilo at the Trigg County Extension Office by calling 522-3269.

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

Information for this article and the recipes that follow were obtained from the Plate It Up! Kentucky Proud project, a collaboration between the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. More recipes are available by visiting the Trigg County Extension Office.

Bacon and Tomato Dip

1 cup fat free sour cream

1 cup low fat mayonnaise

2 large tomatoes, diced, reserve excess juice

4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all ingredients. Add reserved tomato juice until dip reaches desired consistency. Serve with fresh vegetables or reduced fat crackers.

Yield: 16 (2 tablespoons) servings.

Nutrition Analysis: 50 calories; 3 g fat; 1 g saturated fat; 5 mg cholesterol; 160 mg sodium; 6 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 1 g protein.

Summertime Sensation Casserole

4 strips turkey bacon

1/3 cup minced onion

3 tablespoons diced green pepper

4 ears fresh sweet corn

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried basil

2 cups chopped tomatoes,

1/3 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese

In a large skillet, cook turkey bacon until crisp. Drain turkey bacon on paper towel, chop and put aside. Do not drain pan. Cook onion and green pepper in bacon drippings over medium heat until tender. Cut corn from cob and add to onion and green pepper mixture in skillet. Add salt, black pepper, basil and tomatoes. Cook 5-10 minutes. Add chopped turkey bacon and cook an additional minute.

Pour skillet contents into a greased 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. Top with shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbling.

Yield: 5 (1⁄2 cup) servings

Nutrition Analysis: 160 calories, 7 g fat, 2.5 g sat.fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 680 mg sodium, 19 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 8 g protein

Tomato Bruschetta

3 plum tomatoes, chopped

1/3 cup thinly sliced and coarsely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil

1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

1 pound loaf, whole wheat French bread, cut into 1⁄2 inch slices

Combine tomatoes, onions, garlic, red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, basil, oregano, salt and pepper; set aside. Preheat broiler of oven. Lightly brush both sides of bread slices with remaining olive oil and arrange on ungreased baking sheet. Place three to four inches from the broiler and heat slices for two to three minutes on each side or until golden brown. Top each slice with tomato mixture, using a slotted spoon and serve.

Yield: 16 (1⁄2 inch) slices

Nutritional Analysis: 140 calories, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 250 mg sodium, 19 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 4 g protein
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