2012-08-23 / Family

The Best Tomatoes Of Year Are Here Now!

Now is the time to enjoy the taste of home-grown, field-ripened, Pennsylvania tomatoes. There is nothing better than a thick slice of a juicy dark-red tomato on your home-grilled burger or a BLT sandwich. Ripe, local tomatoes also add the finishing touch to a summer-time tossed salad. While this year has been a challenging growing season for Pennsylvania tomato growers because of the early appearance of late blight, growers are in the midst of the peak harvest season for one of the state’s most valuable vegetable crops.

Pennsylvania tomatoes are not only “Simply Delicious” but they are also “Simply Nutritious”. One medium tomato supplies over 40 percent of the daily allowance of vitamin C and 20 percent of vitamin A plus potassium – all with only 35 calories. Tomatoes are also contain generous amounts of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps protect the body from cancer.

August is the peak season for “Simply Delicious, Simply Nutritious” Pennsylvania tomatoes and many other locally grown vegetables. That’s why the governor has proclaimed August as Pennsylvania Produce Month. Tomatoes and an abundance of other Pennsylvania produce are available at roadside farm markets, community farmers’ markets and supermarkets across the state.

Consumers concerned with rising food prices might want to consider buying a bushel or two of Pennsylvania tomatoes from a local farmer and canning a couple batches of homemade tomato sauce with grandma’s secret family recipe. Tomatoes are one of the simpler vegetables to can at home. Home canning Pennsylvania tomatoes will save gallons of fossil fuels used to truck canned product across the country. Penn State University offers detailed instructions and recipes on how to safely can tomatoes (and other vegetables) at home. Available at http://foodsafety.psu.edu/lets_ preserve.html, or by contacting any Penn State Cooperative

Extension office, or by contacting the Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program at 717-694- 3596.

Of course another alternative to reduce your carbon footprint is to purchase commercially canned tomato products produced by Pennsylvania food processors from Pennsylvania tomatoes.

Pennsylvania’s fresh market tomato crop is grown on about 2,400 acres. Another 1,500 acres are used to grow tomatoes for food processors for use in several brands of tomato products. In addition, about 15 acres of Pennsylvania greenhouses produce tomatoes during the spring and fall months when they cannot be grown in the field. In number of acres, tomatoes trail sweet corn, snap beans, potatoes and pumpkins as a leading Pennsylvania vegetable crop. However, tomatoes typically are second or third in value.

Many local growers are growing heirloom varieties that are noted for their distinctive flavors. But local growers can offer superior quality tomatoes of ordinary varieties as well for one simple reason. They can allow them to ripen in the field. A fully ripened tomato cannot be shipped any distance. Any grower who has to ship his product is forced to harvest tomatoes before they are ripe so they will not bruise. In truth, the blame for poor tasting tomatoes lies not so much with the grower but with subsequent handlers and even the consumer.

Tomatoes picked before they are fully ripe can develop an appetizing flavor and texture if two basic conditions are met. First, the tomatoes must not be refrigerated. They should be stored at room temperature or at least above 55ºF. Unripe tomatoes that have been subjected to temperatures below this level will never ripen satisfactorily.

The second condition is patience. Tomatoes that are on the pink side need several days at room temperature to develop a deep red color and the desired tomato flavor. They should also soften slightly. Only when they have fully ripened like this should they be refrigerated and then only if necessary. Refrigerated tomatoes will have a better eating flavor if they are allowed to warm to room temperature before serving.

Pennsylvania tomatoes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. The most common is the larger round, red tomato that can be sliced for sandwiches or burgers, cut in wedges for eating directly, diced for salads or tacos, or cooked into numerous kinds of sauces. Small round tomatoes, also called cherry or grape tomatoes depending on their size, are perfect for salads or as a garnish. Plum tomatoes (sometimes called Italian or Roma tomatoes) are the choice for preparing secret family-recipe sauces as they cook down to a rich, thick sauce.

Health authorities recommend most Americans eat at least 2 to 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day. Following are some tasty tomato recipes from the 2012 Pennsylvania Vegetable Recipe Contest. Additional tomato recipes are available at www.paveggies.org.

Tangy Tomato

Strawberry Salad

Serves 4

1-1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved and seeded

1 cup diced fresh strawberries

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon olive oil pinch of salt or to taste

2 ounces feta cheese

1/4 cup walnuts

4 cups baby greens or baby spinach

Drain tomatoes and strawberries in a colander to reduce excess juice and pat dry with paper towels if necessary. Combine honey, vinegar and salt in a small bowl. Whisk together to dissolve honey and then whisk in oil until completely blended. Pour over tomatoes and strawberries, stir to coat, and marinate for 10 minutes. While salad marinates, place walnuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Add feta cheese and pulse just until mixed. Divide greens onto 4 individual plates or a serving platter. Using a slotted spoon, top greens with tomatostrawberry mixture, reserving juice. Sprinkle salad with fetawalnut mixture, and drizzle with remaining dressing just before serving.

Submitted by Cindy Kerschner, Schnecksville

Tomato-Watermelon Salad

Serves 6

2 tablespoons sliced almonds

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chili paste
with garlic (available in Asian
markets.)
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin
olive oil.
1 teaspoon sherry
2 teaspoons rice wine or
white vinegar
1/2 medium Vidalia onion,
thinly sliced
1 cup 1/2-inch cubes watermelon 1 jalapeno, seeds removed,
thinly sliced
4 tablespoons chopped
fresh parsley
1 tablespoon capers,
drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to
taste
2-1/2 lbs. tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta
cheese
Combine almonds, garlic, 2
teaspoons olive oil and chili
paste in a small pan. Sauté
over medium heat for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. For
the vinaigrette, combine the
sherry, vinegar, lime juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and onions
in a bowl. Whisk in the almond/ chili/garlic mixture. In
a large bowl, toss watermelon,
jalapeno, parsley, and capers.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add tomatoes and vinaigrette. Sprinkle with feta
cheese. Serve immediately.
Submitted by Marilyn Goldfarb, Boalsburg
Fish Poached in Tomatoes
Serves 4
1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes (any kind will work but I
use cut up – not crushed) or 4
fresh tomatoes cut up in
cubes with 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon beef bouillon
1 dash Worchester sauce
1 small onion diced
1 small green pepper diced
2 pods garlic diced
herbs to season –1 tablespoon Italian blend or sprigs
of fresh basil, parsley and
oregano cut up.
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 filets of fish – any white
fish will do – Tilapia is what I
used about 1 pound
1 dozen medium shrimp –
cleaned and peeled – optional
In a large skillet, sauté garlic, onion and peppers for a
few minutes until the onions
are translucent – not
browned. Add tomatoes and
water or can of tomatoes. Add
herbs and simmer for about
10 to 15 minutes to blend the
flavors. Add the fish and
shrimp and allow to poach –
about 10 to 15 minutes until
the fish is flakey and shrimp
looks cooked. Serve over rice,
toast points or pasta.
Submitted by Karen Parish,
Fleetwood
Chipotle BLT Bouquets
Serves 10
20 slices whole wheat
bread
20-10 inch wooden skewers 10 slices thick cut bacon
1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes 2 pints red grape tomatoes
1 head iceberg lettuce,
washed and cut in half
Chipotle mayonnaise
3-inch cookie cutter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut flowers from the 20
slices of whole wheat bread.
Use the wooden skewer to
poke a small hole in the center of each flower. Bake flowers, on an ungreased baking
sheet for approximately 12
minutes or until crisp and
lightly browned. Cool. Cut bacon strips crosswise into 3
pieces approximately 3” long.
In a large skillet, fry bacon on
both sides until almost crisp.
Drain on paper towels. Cut
lettuce into small wedges and
set aside. Spread a small
amount of the Chipotle mayonnaise on each piece of the
bread flower then set them
aside. To make the BLT skewers, slide a small yellow tomato on the sharp end of the
skewer, place bread flower, bacon and lettuce ending with a
red grape tomato. Do not
thread the tomato all the way
through. To make the standing bouquet, assemble skewers into the half head of lettuce that has been placed on
a plate. If desired, make a few
tomato skewers and place
them in the empty spaces.
Serve immediately.
Submitted by Kathy
Rohrbaugh, Shrewsbury

Quick buying tips

Tomatoes must ripen to a deep, rich red color to achieve their best flavor.

Ripen pink tomatoes at 60 degrees - 70 ºF in an open area with good air circulation.

Never refrigerate tomatoes until they are red and fully ripened.

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