The Fruits of Summer
Gardens are growing and your local farmer's market is in full swing!
It's officially SUMMER!
One of my summertime favorites: fresh heirloom-variety tomatoes!
If you've never had an heirloom tomato, you MUST try one this summer!
These vine-ripened tomatoes are juicy, have a ton of flavor, and have more nutritional value than the gas-ripened and tasteless grocery store tomatoes! Once you try one, you'll never go back!
What is an heirloom?
With the advent of modern agriculture, hybridization and genetic modification have created "new" plants that are resistant to pests (and pesticides), and yield larger and hardier fruits. Unfortunately, the fruits are also typically tasteless and have a lower nutritional value than their heirloom counterparts.
Heirloom plants are old-variety plants that have not been hybridized or genetically modified. The seeds have often been carefully selected, saved, and handed down through multiple generations of families. The fruits of these plants don't tend to be uniform in size and shape (have you ever noticed how "perfect" the store tomatoes are?), and they also tend to be far less resistant to pests.
But the TASTE -- OH, THE TASTE! You just cannot beat a summertime heirloom tomato!
There are over 400 varieties of heirloom tomato! Some of the most popular varieties (and the ones you'll probably find at the farmer's market): Black Cherry, Brandywine, Dixie Golden Giant, Black Krim, and Cherokee Purple (my personal fave).
According to Mother Earth News, the two biggest reasons people choose heirlooms is taste and higher nutrient content.
Try a ripe mid-summer heirloom tomato for yourself and you'll understand the "taste" people rave about.
And while the debate still rages over the topic of nutrition, recent studies on hybridized and genetically modified plants suggest that as we've learned to mass produce pest-resistant and high-yield plants, the nutritional value of the fruits and veggies from those plants is declining. They tend to contain higher amounts of sugar and carbohydrates and lower levels of vitamins and minerals. (http://www.motherearthnews.com/nature-and-environment/nutritional-content-zmaz09jjzraw)
What are the health benefits of tomatoes?
Tomatoes are technically a fruit, but they are low in calories, sugar, and carbohydrates, which means the body processes them more like a vegetable. They are a low-glycemic food, so they won't raise blood sugar like many fruits, and they are full of antioxidants and vitamins. They are a good source of all four major carotenoids: alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene. They are also high in vitamins C, E, and potassium. Tomatoes are a staple in the popular "Mediterranean Diet", and studies suggest that eating lots of tomatoes as part of a balanced diet can help reduce risk for heart disease and cancer.
The phenomenal taste is enough to encourage me to eat plenty of this "fruit of summer", and my favorite way to eat them is Caprese-style.
BONUS TIP: Eating tomatoes with a healthy fat like olive oil increases your body's ability to absorb the vitamins and minerals in the tomato!
There are many ways to make a Caprese salad, but my time (and attention span) is often limited, so simple is better. Below is my "recipe"....which isn't really a recipe because you're just putting stuff on a plate! Easy-peasy-tomato-squeezy!
Heirloom Tomatoes Caprese
- 2 large or 4 small heirloom-variety tomatoes
- 2 to 3 T of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 to 2 T balsamic vinegar
- Fresh basil sprig
- Sea salt, black pepper, and garlic granules to taste
- Fresh ball mozzarella (optional)
Slice tomatoes and arrange them on a plate. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes. Drip the balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes. Add the fresh basil and a few slices of fresh mozzarella if you aren't sensitive to dairy. Sprinkle everything with the salt, pepper, and garlic.
Simple, beautiful, and delicious! Buon appetito!
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