The height of summer brings every gardener’s favorite time of year – tomato season. From the classic cherry to the misshapen heirloom, this fruit is here in a big way. Tomatoes are everywhere, from gardens to farm stands, and they are packed with nutrients to keep you going all year long.
Read on to learn more about the numerous health benefits tomatoes provide, the varieties you may find at your local grocery store, and some recipes to inspire you as you plan this week’s dinners.
Health and Nutritional Benefits of Tomatoes
While every variety of tomato packs slightly different health benefits, across the board, you will find tomatoes to be a significant source of a number of nutrients, including vitamins C, A, K, potassium, and folate. Several varieties are also filled with antioxidants like beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, and lycopene, known to fight free radicals that cause damage to your cells. As a result, eating tomatoes can positively impact your health, including lowering your risk of developing certain types of cancers. And it doesn’t end there; consuming this powerhouse fruit can also improve vision, boost digestive health, help with diabetes management, and improve skin health.
Different types of tomatoes and how to use them in recipes
With the abundance of nutrients in all varieties of tomatoes, you can’t go wrong when selecting a bunch or carton at the store. While consuming any type of tomato can improve well-being, it’s helpful to understand how to play to each variety’s strengths. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a list of the most popular tomato varieties to get you started.
A well-known variety, cherry tomatoes are bite-sized and often so juicy that many prefer to consume them raw as a snack, in salads, or in kebabs. While it is still debated by experts, this variety is often thought to have the highest concentration of lycopene, an antioxidant proven to lower the risk of chronic illness.
Similar to the cherry but about half the size and slightly less juicy, grape tomatoes are perfect for snacks or salads.
Roma or Plum Tomatoes
As a slightly larger and sweeter variety, Roma tomatoes make a great choice for salads, canning, or sauces.
Some of the most nutritious and unique types of tomatoes are of the heirloom variety. An heirloom tomato is categorized as such because of the seeds. The seeds of the juiciest, biggest, and most flavorful fruit are saved at the end of the season to be planted the following year. This process allows farmers to select and breed for certain desirable traits. Unlike many store-bought varieties, heirloom tomatoes are also uniquely pollinated by birds and insects – with little scientific intervention. This process has yielded over 600 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, each containing its own unique qualities. As a result, heirloom tomatoes vary in size and color and in caloric and nutritional content. Heirloom tomatoes tend to have a sweeter, juicier taste as compared to other varieties making them great for canning, sauces, and eating on their own or in salads.
Green tomatoes can be divided into two categories, tomatoes that are green when fully ripened and tomatoes that are green because they are not yet ripe. Unripened green tomatoes are often used in cooking, canning, relishes, and sauces due to their tangy and slightly sour taste.
On the Vine Tomatoes
As the name suggests, this variety is still sold attached to the vine it grew on. The vine-ripened tomatoes are harvested when they first show signs of changing color. This optimizes the ripeness and quality of the tomatoes. Once harvested, they continue to ripen on the vine ensuring they don’t reach peak ripeness until they arrive on the shelves of the grocery store.
Summer Tomato Recipes
Tomatoes pack a big punch of flavor and nutrition. Now is the perfect time to celebrate the peak of tomato season with these summer recipes. Whether you are looking for a quick and nutritious side like this Ultimate Caprese Salad or something a little more filling like our Bruschetta Chicken or Baked Ziti, tomatoes are the star of the show. Check out our Favorite Summer Salad Recipes for more seasonal meal inspiration.