BY KIM HUGHES –
At roadside stands, farmers markets, and gardens you see bright red vegetables that make you long for a slice. But are tomatoes a vegetable or a fruit? Depends on how you look at it; by method of cultivation and use it is a vegetable; however, botanically it is a fruit. Specifically, it is a berry because it is pulpy and contains one or more seeds that are not stones.
Aside from improving the flavor of food, tomatoes provide a great boost to health. Tomatoes consist of a large number of antioxidants which fight different forms of cancer. The rich source of vitamins and minerals provide a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases. It also improves eye health and prevents hypertension and urinary tract infections.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant highly effective in scavenging cancer-causing free radicals. This benefit extends even to the heat-processed products, which include ketchup.
The lycopene in tomato prevents serum lipid oxidation, thus exerting protective effect against cardiovascular diseases. Regular consumption of tomato has shown to decrease levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. These lipids are the key culprits in cardiovascular diseases and lead to the deposit of fats in the blood vessels.
One single tomato can provide about 40 percent of the daily vitamin C requirement and a medium size has only 24 calories. They are high in potassium and other antioxidants and low in sodium, fat and calories.
Store tomatoes that are mature or partially ripe at a cool room temperature and in a light but not sunny area. They should not be refrigerated until they are mature; refrigerate for no longer than 5 days. After that time, they begin to lose both texture and flavor.
There are more than 4,000 varieties of tomatoes to choose from, ranging from the small, marble-sized cherry tomato to the giant Ponderosa that can weigh three pounds. Cherry, globe, and grape are wonderful in salads or eaten just out of hand. While the larger, Better Boy and Beef Steak tomatoes are most often used for sandwiches. If you are making salsa, plum and pear shaped varieties, such as Roma are the best choice due to their meatiness.