|Feature Article||From Harvest to Health|
|How to select, store, prepare and preserve a variety of farm-fresh produce|
Because they contain high amounts of water and fiber, tomatoes
are low in calories--a medium sized, raw tomato furnishes less than
30 calories. Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamins C and A.
For best quality, select tomatoes that are plump, heavy for their
size, and free from bruises and other defects. Ripe tomatoes are
completely red or reddish-orange, depending on the variety, and
give slightly to gentle palm pressure. Avoid tomatoes that are overly
ripe and soft.
Mature, unripe tomatoes can be ripened at room temperature, out
of direct sunlight, but flavor development will not be as good as
vine-ripened tomatoes. The ripening process can be speeded up by
placing tomatoes in a bag or ripening bowl. Missouri-grown tomatoes
are available ripe and at peak quality throughout the summer.
Tomatoes can be eaten fresh or preserved for use in family meals
throughout the year. Versatile tomatoes are tops on the home canner's
list as they can be canned whole or stewed, as juice, sauce, paste,
catsup, and even in relishes and sweet spreads!
Caution: Select only firm ripe tomatoes for canning. It is
not safe to can tomatoes that are overripe, soft, moldy, or picked
from dead vines because they are less acid.
Tomatoes that are too ripe for safe canning, but still sound
and free from decay, can be frozen. Drying is also a good way to
preserve part of an abundant crop after canning jars and freezer
Using and Preserving Tomatoes:
- Refrigerate ripe tomatoes for up to a week. Longer storage results in flavor and nutrient loss.
- Peel and slice tomatoes just before using to preserve their natural juiciness, flavor, and nutrients.
- Peel tomatoes quickly without juice loss by dipping for 30 seconds in boiling water and quickly plunging into ice water. Skins will slip off easily.
- Slicing fresh tomatoes lengthwise, rather than crosswise, will help retain juice.
- Tomato skins toughen in the freezer and should be removed before tomatoes are frozen whole or sliced.
- Prepare a large batch of your favorite basic tomato sauce at the height of the season when tomatoes are at peak flavor. Freeze sauce in meal-sized portions for use in pizza, lasagna, and spaghetti throughout the winter months.
- For safety and best quality, thaw frozen tomatoes in the refrigerator.
- Frozen tomatoes can be added to soups, stews, and sauces without being thawed.
- For the best quality, choose firm-ripe, bright red tomatoes that are thick-walled and heavy for their size.
- Dried tomatoes can be stored in an airtight container in a dark, cool, dry area for two to three months.
- Dried, thinly sliced tomato chips, served with a dip made from cottage cheese, yogurt, and flavorings, are a nutritious, low calorie snack.
- Dried tomatoes can be chopped in a blender or food processor and used like stewed tomatoes in soups, sauces, and casseroles. They are not, however, suitable for use in raw salads.
- Use a blender or food processor to make dried tomatoes into a fine powder that can be reconstituted and used in place of tomato sauce and paste.
Quick 'N Fresh Ideas
- Stuff fresh, whole tomatoes with egg, chicken, or seafood salad, top with low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt and sprinkle with sesame or sunflower seeds for a quick lunch.
- Chop fresh tomatoes and serve atop tacos or a bowl of chili.
- For extra color and flavor, add quartered tomatoes to any stir-fry combination. For the best texture and flavor, add tomatoes just before removing from the heat.
- Add tomato slices to grilled cheese sandwiches for a new taste appeal.
- Guacamole dip is more colorful topped with diced, fresh tomatoes.
- Remove core, halve crosswise or slice, dot with butter or margarine if desired, top with fresh herbs, grated cheese, or chives and broil, bake, or microwave tomatoes.
Serve this cold soup on a hot summer day!
2 large fresh tomatoes, peeled and cored
1 large cucumber, halved
1 green pepper, halved and seeded
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
3 cups tomato juice
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
In a blender or food processor, puree half the cucumber, 1 tomato,
half the green pepper, half the onion and 1 cup tomato juice. Pour
puree into a large bowl and add the remaining tomato juice, vinegar,
oil, pepper sauce, salt, pepper and garlic. Cover and refrigerate
at least 2 hours. Chop the remaining vegetables, cover and refrigerate
until serving time. Just before serving, stir chopped vegetables
into the puree. Serve chilled.
Makes about 6 servings.
Microwave Tomato Zucchini Parmesan*
5 fresh, medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 1/2 cups zucchini, sliced
2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
grated Parmesan cheese
Mix green pepper, onion, garlic and oil in a three-quart bowl,
cover with lid or vented plastic wrap and microwave at high setting
for 3 minutes. Stir; microwave at high setting for 3 minutes or
until tender. Stir in tomatoes, zucchini, salt and pepper, cover
and microwave at high setting for 8 minutes. Stir; microwave for
7 minutes. Remove cover and microwave 5 minutes. In a small bowl,
blend cornstarch and water. Add to vegetables and stir. Microwave
uncovered at high setting for 2 minutes or until thickened. Cover
and let stand 5 minutes. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and
serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
*This recipe could also be prepared on a range top using a stir-fry technique.
For more preservation information, refer to guides:
GH1456 Quality for Keeps: How to Can Fresh Tomato Products
To order any of the "From Harvest to Health" publications or
for more preservation information, please refer to the University
of Missouri Extension, Human Environmental Sciences Publications
Food, Nutrition and Fitness section.
Last update: Thursday, June 18, 2009