My garden has an abundance of tomatoes – can you give me some tips on using them, as well as some gluten-free recipe ideas?
Any way you slice them, tomatoes are a nutrition powerhouse that are so versatile in a gluten free diet. They are low in calories, rich in vitamins and minerals like potassium, vitamin A and C, as well as lycopene, an antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color. Lycopene has been shown to play a role in lowering the risk of some cancers, particularly prostate cancer.
Another added bonus – tomatoes are delicious! Let’s face it… you can’t beat the taste of a local fresh-picked tomato! Although you have an abundance of tomatoes now, come winter you’ll be missing these juicy gems, when you can’t find a good tomato anywhere.
Here are a few tips, tricks and recipes to enjoy tomatoes now and in the months to come:
~ Start with selection: Select tomatoes that are heavy for their size, brightly colored, slightly firm and blemish free. If tomatoes are not ripe enough, place them in a paper bag and allow them to ripen at room temperature.
~ Storage: Refrigerating tomatoes stops the ripening process and kills the flavor, aroma and texture (this is why tomatoes turn mealy). Store them at room temperature instead. However, if they are very ripe they can be stored in the refrigerator.
~ Serrate them: The best way to cut tomatoes? Gently with a serrated knife to avoid crushing.
Tomato Types and Uses:
There are so many types of tomatoes it is often difficult to determine what type should be used for which purpose. Use this handy chart below to decide what tomato is best for your use or gluten-free recipe.
|Type of Tomato||Distinctiveness||How to Use|
|Globe Tomatoes||Most common; medium sized; mild taste; juicy||Sandwiches, salsas, salads|
|Beefsteak/Big Boy||Grows up to 1 pound or more; very juicy; lots of seeds; more acidic||Sliced on sandwiches and burgers; Salsa; gluten-free pizza.|
|Plum (Most common type is the Roma)||Oblong shaped with fewer seeds; Meatier and not juicy||Great for making gluten-free tomato paste; ketchup and tomato based soups; perfect in chili and pasta dishes|
|Cherry||Bite-sized sweeties||Snacks; salad toppers; garnishes|
|Grape||Meatier and less seeds than the Cherry variety||Snacking; Veggie trays served with gluten-free dips|
Think beyond the summer: Although the peak growing season for tomatoes is June through October there are ways to enjoy fresh tomatoes year-round. Here are some methods to preserving your just-picked tomatoes:
~ Canning: Canning has become very popular once again over the past several years. Check out the canning tomato tips from Canadian Living Magazine.
~ Freezing: Freezing tomatoes is a simple way to enjoy tomatoes off-season for casseroles, soups and chili. Start by thoroughly washing the tomatoes, and dipping them in boiling water for about 30-45 seconds to loosen the skins. Remove from the water – peel and remove the core. Cut into pieces or leave whole and pack into freezer bags. Remove excess air and seal tight. Remember, when thawed the tomatoes will be slightly mushy so they are best used in casseroles and soups.
~ Cook recipes and freeze to enjoy later: Salsas and sauces freeze up nicely and are the perfect quick and easy start to hectic weekday dinners. Whip up a quick batch of Fresh Pomodoro (Tomato) Sauce today and enjoy over gluten-free pasta once school starts!
Need some healthy recipe ideas using fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce? Check out these links:
Ask Shelley Case is a feature of BeFreeForMe.com. It is published the second Tuesday of each month. Shelley Case, RD is a Consulting Dietitian, Speaker and Author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide. Visit Shelley and get more gluten-free tips & info at: GlutenFreeDiet.ca