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A Tomato a Day…

…keeps many ills at bay, I recently discovered.

Evidently tomatoes, the delicious low-cal, zero-fat icons of garden-fresh flavor, are packed with loads of nutrients that help us fight the good fight to stay healthy. Two significant medical areas where tomatoes are our allies are the prevention of cancer and the prevention of  bone-density loss.

That news provides a well-timed motivational boost, because this year’s garden is pumping out the tomatoes. In turn, my body is ingesting ridiculous volumes, and my kitchen has processed even more. After last season’s dismal garden output due to an unsuspectedly tainted purchase of “organic” composted soil, the bounty is appreciated. It’s also overwhelming.

Tomato Breakfast

Tomato Breakfast

In the past several weeks, not a day has passed without my eating at least one tomato. My partner and I even brought some of the heirloom beauties on a recent car camping trip, just so they didn’t get wasted. I swear we put more energy into keeping them safe from bruising than we did just about anything else. Several days in, those that remained faced certain demise without swift action. So breakfast ensued. I just kept quartering them and feeding us both until finally there were no more. Thankfully our gorgeous camp was alongside a river, and the colorful juices covering our faces and hands could be easily rinsed and returned to nature.

Tomato Ranch - 35 Plants

Tomato Ranch – 35 Plants

Back at home, a.k.a. tomato ranch, the pressure is even more intense. Nearly every day, I wake early, walk or run the dogs and spend some good quality tomato time in the kitchen before going to work. No kidding, it’s easily 25-40 pounds a week, several weeks running. Nothing for the Heinz kitchen, I’m sure, but quite a task for the Hall kitchen. So, how to best capitalize on the harvest has been the ongoing question. The typical methods lost their luster early, and in some cases began to portend a real freezer space crisis…

Eating them fresh – check. Seriously morning, noon and night.

Canning pizza sauce – check.

Fresh salsa – check, at least twice a week.

Dried fig tomatoes – check.

Frozen Amish Paste tomatoes – check.

Canned bruschetta topping – check.

Mexican chili sauce – check, and super delicious!

Charred chili bbq sauce – check, and some of the best ever.

Rhubarb-tomato ketchup – check, and passed the teen test!

Never a big canner of whole tomatoes, last week’s “what do we do with all these tomatoes?!” question triggered some untapped idea in my head… fully prepared sauces. Since the garden generated an equally impressive crop of onions and garlic, and the herbs are still hanging on, it’s literally all there at our fingertips! What could be better than having frozen sauces just ready to thaw for an amazing pop of summer in January? Cooking now saves space (usually the tomatoes are cooked down considerably), it takes full advantage of what’s still good in the garden, and an already busy kitchen. As if we didn’t feel rich with tomatoes before, now it’s feeling lavish. The freezer is filling with ready to thaw & use…

Yellow Banana Tomato Sauce

Yellow Banana Tomato Sauce

Lasagna sauce – check… even made a 2nd batch for a trade.

Enchilada sauce – check.

Romesco sauce concentrate (finish with olive oil when thawed) – check… two kinds, because we both have favorite recipes.

Bouillabaisse (the tomato portion, add fish stock later) – check.

Yellow tomato sauce from a favorite chef’s cookbook – check.

Puttanesca – on deck.

No time to hit snooze just yet. The race is still on. This warm September means the plants continue to crank out ripe fruit. Once that tapers off, the green tomato challenge will commence. I’ll eat and put away all that I possibly can.

As a woman, the part about tomatoes having a significant impact on bone health is particularly attractive. Studies report that regular consumption is key to maintaining the beneficial impact. Usually when winter rolls around and a good tomato is hard to find without traveling to another hemisphere, my intake drops to near nothing. While my mom did tell me a recent x-ray revealed she has the “bones of a 20-yr old,” and I’m hopeful about good genetics, I’m also darn grateful for the vault of tomato goodness piling up in my basement.

 

 

 

 

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