Juicy, sweet and endlessly enjoyed🍅. A true summer superstar fruit 🌟. Yes, in case you still feel the debate is unresolved, a tomato is a fruit. Botanically speaking. Why speak botanically? Just to mix things up a little :). A botanical fruit has at least one seed and grows from the flower of the plant. So, tomatoes are classified as a fruit because they contain seeds and grow from the flower of the tomato plant. Yet, if we speak in culinary terms, how fruits and vegetables are used - including their flavor profile, tomatoes are a vegetable. Culinary speaking, a vegetable usually has a tougher texture, tastes blander and often requires cooking in dishes like stews, soups, stir-fries and sauces. Whereas, a ‘fruit’ has a soft texture, tends to be either sweet or tart and is most often consumed raw or in desserts or jellies and jams. Tomatoes are not alone in their culinary confusion, as other botanical fruits culinarily considered vegetables include avocado, olives, pumpkin, cucumber and green peas. If the is-a-tomato-a-fruit-or-vegetable discussion arises again, just make it more confusing by throwing in some of these other flexible fruit-vegetables for variety.
Why does this debate even matter? Unless you are a botanist, what is most important nutritionally speaking is the nutrient make-up of a tomato. Tomatoes are a wealth of vitamin C, folate and potassium. They also contain vitamin K, vitamin E, trace elements, flavonoids, phytosterols, and several water-soluble vitamins. Tomatoes also contain phytonutrients, which are natural chemicals present in plants. “Phyto” is the Greek word for plant. These chemicals help protect plants from germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats, just as they protect humans against disease. The most abundant phytonutrient in tomatoes is carotenoid. Carotenoids create the yellow, orange, and red colors in many fruits and vegetables.
Beyond the carotenoids beautiful color creation, they are also antioxidants. As we have discussed in previous posts, antioxidants tackle harmful free radicals that damage tissues throughout your body. Lycopene is the most prominent carotenoid in tomatoes, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. They are a decent source of fiber, providing about 1 1/2 grams per average-sized tomato. Tomatoes can be hydrating in the summer heat, as they are 95% water. The other 5% in your average tomato contains about 18 calories, close to a gram of protein, 4 grams of carbohydrate and negligent amount of fat. Their water and sweetness is what makes a welcome part of any summer meal or snack!
A healthy eating pattern is one that provides enough of each essential nutrient from nutrient-dense foods, contains a variety of foods from all of the basic food groups, and focuses on balancing calories consumed with calories expended to help you achieve and sustain a healthy weight~United States Department of Agriculture. Tomatoes, especially this time of year, are nutritious and delicious gift to our plates and our bodies. So let’s slice some up!
GRILLED TOMATO BURSTS
This recipe is fun to create on the grill, keeping you focused on the task at hand. Use a grill topper so you do not lose any tomatoes through the cracks. Halloumi cheese is best for the grill, but quickly working with Manchego works as well. This recipe is both physically appealing and tastefully bursting with flavor. It could be served with whole grain crackers or crusty bread as an appetizer or side dish, as well as served on top of greens as a meal.
1 pint cherry tomatoes (any color combo)
2 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces Halloumi or Manchego cheese, sliced into semi-thick planks
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
Nonstick cooking spray
Spray grill topper with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat grill to 350˚to 400˚F (medium-high heat) with grill topper in place. In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper.
Place tomatoes on grill topper and heat until tomatoes start to burst, about 5 minutes, moving around frequently while cooking. Remove from grill and place on serving plate.
Brush cheese planks with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill about 1–2 minutes, as soon as you see grill marks on cheese, and it is starting to melt (will be real quick with Manchego). Flip to other side for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Arrange around tomatoes on serving plate. Sprinkle with fresh basil and more pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Makes 3-4 meal servings and 5–6 appetizer servings.
SUMMER mé·nage à trois
Tomatoes, peaches and corn — the sweetness of summer — all mixed together in one dish. This dish could be served as a side salad, a main dish with some grilled seafood on top, or as an appetizer as a salsa-type dip. No matter how you serve it, consume it with pleasure ☺️.
3 ears of corn, shucked
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon salt
1–2 ripe peaches, sliced and chopped into small pieces
3 plum tomatoes, washed, seeded and chopped into small pieces
1/2 red onion, chopped into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 Tablespoon honey
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped plus extra for garnish
freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
Fill large pot about halfway with water and place over high heat. Add about a half teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Using tongs, drop your corn into the boiling water. Return the water to a boil, then cook your corn for 6–8 minutes, or until the corn is just tender to the touch. When the corn is cook enough to handle, carefully use a sharp knife to remove the kernels from the cob. Place in a medium-size bowl.
Add chopped peaches, tomatoes and onion to the bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the red pepper flakes, olive oil, vinegar and honey. Pour over top of the corn mixture and toss well. Add basil, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with basil. Makes 6–8 side dish servings or approximately 12 appetizer servings.
ROMESCO SAUCE WITH OPTIONS!
Instead of a one-pot meal, this is more of a one-grill meal, plus the blender :). Romesco is a nutty, peppery sauce, with lots of options! This crowd-pleasing sauce could be served with any protein, veggie, bread, or all three at once.
2 red bell peppers
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 cup almonds, unsalted
1 6-ounce can tomato paste (or feel free to go for a freshly made purée!)
2 Tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable broth, low sodium plus extra if needed
4 6-ounce salmon fillets and/or 6 portobello mushrooms
freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
Preheat grill to medium-high. Place the peppers on the grill. Grill for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally until all sides are charred and the peppers are softened. Place the peppers in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside.
In a blender or food processor, add the garlic, almonds, tomato paste, parsley and vinegar. Blend until smooth and set aside.
When the peppers are cool enough to handle, remove the discard the skins. Slice each pepper in half, remove the stems and seeds and add to blender or food processor. Blend until well combined. Add the oil and blend again. Add the broth until desired consistency. Serve on top of grilled fish, chicken, veggies, pasta ~ one of the most versatile sauces to create!
- Salmon🐟: Rub fresh garlic on all sides. Season with salt and pepper. Grill for 4–5 minutes per side. Serve with sauce.
- Portobello mushrooms 🍄: Rinse and clean well. Rub with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill 3–4 minutes per side. Serve with sauce.
- Whole wheat orzo 🍚: Prepare according to package directions. Toss with sauce and top with fresh parmesan cheese.
- Purchase (or bake if you are feeling it) a grainy, crusty bread🥖. Slice and serve with sauce.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. 😊 ~Miles Kington, British journalist, musician and broadcaster
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Beecher GR. Nutrient content of tomatoes and tomato products. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1998 Jun;218(2):98–100. doi: 10.3181/00379727–218–44282a. PMID: 9605204.