Time to stock up on fresh local tomatoes! Every local farm market has tomatoes for sale, and this would be a good time to stock up and freeze or can what you cannot eat right now.
The tomato is the fruit of the plant Lycopersicon esculentum , a member of the nightshade family, which includes eggplant, bell peppers, and potatoes (although not sweet potatoes). Tomatoes have it all: they are an excellent source of vitamins C, A and K, and a very good source of potassium, vitamin B6, folate, and dietary fiber, as well as a good source of manganese, molybdenum, magnesium, niacin, iron, vitamin E, vitamin B1, and phosphorus. Tomatoes also contain protein and copper. Tomatoes are loaded with phytonutrients, including lycopene, recognized for its antioxidant properties.
Tomatoes come in hundreds and hundreds of varieties, each with a different shape, size and color! There are the tiny grape and cherry tomatoes, pear-shaped tomatoes (small and medium sized), and giant Beefsteak-type tomatoes. Common colors found in the Miami Valley are yellow tomatoes, orange tomatoes and bright red tomatoes, but Patchwork Gardens and Hungry Toad Farm frequently have ‘purple’ tomatoes (sort of a dark purply-green, really) and zebra-striped tomatoes which remain green when ripe. Tomatoes also come in pink, brown and black.
Where did they come from? Tomatoes are native to the South America, and the first type of tomato grown is thought to have been a smaller, cherry tomato type. The Aztecs may have been the first to cultivate the tomato, and the word ‘tomato’ might come from the Aztecan word ‘tomatl ‘. Spanish explorers and colonizers brought tomato seeds from Mexico to Spain in the 1500’s and introduced this food to Europe, where they were originally considered poisonous!
Today, over 130 million tons of tomatoes are consumed each year, with the majority of tomatoes being grown in China, followed by the United States. Between 80-90% of all commercial tomato cultivation in the U.S. is used in making processed tomato products, such as pasta sauces, pizza sauces, and tomato pastes.
Speaking of processed tomato products…
Many foreign countries do not have strict standards for lead content in containers; this is especially important with tomatoes and other acidic foods, as the acid content can cause corrosion of its metal container. When the can begins to corrode, the lead in the containers can migrate into the foods. You are safer buying canned goods processed in the safer buying canned tomatoes, it is often safer buying tomatoes canned in the United States.
Wait – there’s more. The Whole Foods website discusses recent information about canned tomato products and BPA (bisphenol A). BPA is added to the vinyl lining of numerous canned foods, and is has an impact on estrogen metabolism. A recent study of canned foods in Canada has shown an average of about 1 ppb of BPA in canned tomato paste products (with a maximum amount of about 2 ppb), and an average of 9 ppb in pure tomato products (such as diced, sliced, or whole peeled tomatoes), with a maximum amount of about 23 ppm. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not set a limit on the amount of BPA allowed in canned tomatoes, however, the European Commission Directive for BPA has set a limit of 600 ppb. To ensure that your canned tomato products contain no BPA, you will need to look for a claim of ‘BPA-Free’ on the label of your canned tomato products (or you can call the manufacturer). Even some certified organic canned tomato products may contain BPA (through migration from the can).
You can avoid all of this by buying local and canning or freezing your own local tomato products.
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