Creston tomatoes are finally ripening! Fresh, vine ripened tomatoes are one of the best things about summer. Along with tomatoes, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, peaches, plums and peppers are all available at the market this month, along with carrots, greens like lettuce and kale, onions and other fruits and veggies. This month, the Creston Valley Farmers’ Market will be at the Creston Valley Fall Fair this year at the usual time, 8 a.m.-noon. On the same day there will be a vendors’ appreciation event where customers will have the opportunity to express appreciation for vendors they like. Come to the fall fair to participate!
Tomatoes are a part of the nightshade family, which includes chili peppers, potatoes and eggplants. Tomatoes were even thought to be poisonous at one point. Tomato allergies and sensitivities are fairly common, but for anyone not sensitive to them they are actually very healthy. Tomatoes are low in calories while being high in many different vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. They are especially known for being high in lycopene, which is what gives tomatoes their color. Lycopene is believed to have a part in preventing certain types of cancer, including skin cancer, and protecting the skin and eyes from UV rays. It is best to choose organic varieties of tomatoes as the lycopene content is proven to be up to three times higher than in conventionally grown tomatoes.
Besides their antioxidant content, tomatoes are very high in vitamin C along with niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin A, iron and potassium. Because of their nutritional content, tomatoes can help control cholesterol, prevent heart disease, promote eye health and the immune system.
When choosing tomatoes, look for smooth, glossy tomatoes that are fully ripened and that are vibrant and richly coloured. The skin should not be broken at all and they should not be wrinkly or too soft. When storing your tomatoes, be sure to keep them on the counter and out of the fridge unless they’re becoming over ripe. Tomatoes are sensitive to the cold and will not continue to ripen if they are kept in the fridge so unripe tomatoes should be kept at room temperature until they ripen. Even ripe tomatoes can be kept at room temperature for a few days before they become overripe. To speed up ripening if you have unripe tomatoes, place tomatoes in a paper bag with a banana or an apple as they release a gas that will speed up the process.
Rinse your tomatoes to remove any dirt or residue and dry before using. Some recipes may call for peeling tomatoes. This is easily done by cutting an X in the bottom of the tomato and dropping into boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Remove from the boiling water and place in an ice bath immediately. When the tomato is cold, easily peel the skin off, remove the spot where the stem was and use as needed.
While tomatoes are usually red, there are many different varieties that are yellow, orange or even purple. They are usually used when fully ripened but can also be enjoyed while still green in different dishes, including fried green tomatoes, or different chutneys and curries. When fully ripened, they’re eaten raw, chopped over salads and sliced into sandwiches. They’re cooked into sauces and soups and condiments. When tomatoes are plentiful they can be canned or frozen, whole, diced or pureed. They can also be cooked into soups and sauces and then canned (depending on the recipe) or frozen.
Heidi Bjarnason is a Creston Valley mom and blogger. For more recipes, ideas, pictures and kid friendly ideas and food, visit Fooddoodles.com.
Cheesy Tomato Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
5-6 cloves garlic, sliced
2.5 lbs or 1 kg fresh tomatoes (about 5-6 cups), peeled and stem end removed
1/4 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 tsp sugar (or less depending on how sweet your tomatoes are)
2-3 tbsp fresh parsley
1/4 C fresh basil
1-1 1/2 C extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
In a medium-sized soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. After the onions are softened add the garlic and sauté for just a minute or two before adding the tomatoes. Crush slightly with the back of a wooden spoon to release the juices. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.
Once the soup has simmered long enough, throw the parsley, basil and cheese into the pot. Stir just to combine, then blend the soup with an immersion blender or transfer the soup to a blender or food processor in batches and blend until smooth.
Serve with an extra sprinkle of cheese over top and stir in a spoonful of yogurt for a creamier soup.