Tomatoes, the ultimate salad staple, have finally reached their peak.
After months of vine-ripening in the summer sunshine, the “love apple” as it is sometimes known in France, is now in full bloom. Tomatoes are a fruit that come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors, including red, pink, yellow, orange, green, purple, brown, and even black. While the powerful antioxidant lycopene has long been associated with the deep red color of many tomatoes, new research shows that the lycopene from orange and tangerine-hued tomatoes may be even more powerful. This makes the case for adding an assortment of tomatoes to your plate, perhaps even an “heirloom” variety, which means that the seeds have either been handed down over time between growers, or if produced commercially, created by cross-breeding or open pollination. Also of note: While most of us associate this megastar of superfoods with Italian cuisine, the tomato is originally native to South America and wasn’t brought to Europe until the 1500s by Spanish conquerors.
So what makes this seemingly humble salad ingredient a contender for being crowned king of all disease-fighting foods? For starters, it has tons of the traditional good stuff, such as Vitamins C and K and potassium. But it’s the carotenoids that deserve special attention. These potent free-radical fighters protect tissue against damage from oxidation and have anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to prevent prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease and even bone deterioration.
Of all these disease-fighters, the carotenoid lycopene has gotten the most attention as tomatoes' premier antioxidant and heart-supportive nutrient. Lycopene is a primary defender against the oxidation of fats floating around in your bloodstream. Ultimately this helps guard against clogged arteries and has been shown to help lower total cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, in addition to its anti-blood clotting properties. For anyone watching their waistline, tomatoes are naturally low in calories and high in fiber, keeping you feeling full longer. And if you still aren’t sold, their high Vitamin C content can actually help you absorb calcium and iron from the rest of your meal.
So who wouldn’t want to get in on some ripe tomato action when they're at their best? Here's a healthy recipe that lets them shine:
Fresh Tomato, Corn and Green Bean Salad
2 large heirloom tomatoes
6 ears of fresh corn (shucked and blanched just until done)
6 ounces of green beans (cleaned and blanched)
1 tbsp. olive oil or walnut oil
10 leaves of basil chiffonade
1. Cut the kernels off the cobs. Set aside, adding salt and pepper to taste.
2. To make the chiffonade, clean and dry the basil leaves. Stack them on top of each other; roll into a little log, then slice very fine with a sharp knife. Add ½ to the corn and toss.
3. Toss the green beans with the oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Slice the heirloom tomatoes, then divide and arrange on 6 separate plates.
5. Divide and place the green beans on the tomato slices, lay the corn next to the beans and garnish with basil.
Photography by Peden & Munk/Trunkarchive.com