Tomatoes more than just decoration

Eating what grows seasonally means we get fresher, more nutritious foods and if we can't grow it, we can buy it direct from the farmer, meaning the farmer benefits too, Deanna Copland writes.

I noticed kiwifruit in the supermarket recently; product of Italy. With the abundance of delicious, fresh summer and autumn fruits available to us right now, would there be any need to buy something which will have had to be heavily sprayed to come into New Zealand, as well as picked before it is ready so that it doesn't go rotten before we consume it?

Right now tomatoes are in season. These little beauties are native to South America and were originally grown for decorative purposes. The tomato is actually a fruit but is often grouped with vegetables because of its uses.

Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family along with potatoes, eggplant, capsicum and chillies, so for this reason for a long time they were thought to be poisonous. Some people with arthritis find that the vegetables in the nightshade family can in fact contribute to increased pain and stiffness. This is different in each individual, however.

Tomatoes that have been ripened naturally on the vine usually have a richer, more intense flavour than those ripened using ethylene gas or other products to speed up the process. You will usually notice home-grown tomatoes taste better than their store-bought counterparts for this reason.

When raw, tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, among other nutrients. Lycopene, a carotenoid with potent antioxidant effects, is present when tomatoes are cooked with a little oil.

This has been shown to be useful for males, particularly in helping with prostate issues, but due to the antioxidant effects, we all benefit. This is possibly the reason why people living in the Mediterranean who eat lots of tomatoes have a lower rate of some cancers.

One of my all-time favourite snacks is sliced tomato, torn basil leaves and mozzarella balls with freshly cracked pepper over the top. This combo is a match made in heaven. Cherry tomatoes are a great addition in lunchboxes and are particularly delicious on vegetarian cauliflower pizzas.

 


Cauliflower pizza bases with fresh tomato and basil

Makes 2 bases 

Ingredients 

¼cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved cup pesto
60g goat's cheese,crumbled
1 cup fresh basil leaves

Cauliflower base
600g cauliflower florets
¼cup almond meal (ground almonds)
¼cup finely grated parmesan
3 eggs, lightly beaten
mineral salt and cracked pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 200degC.

To make the cauliflower base, place the cauli in a food processor, in batches and pulse until it resembles fine crumbs. Transfer to a large bowl, add the almond meal, parmesan, egg, salt and pepper and mix to combine.

Divide the mixture between two lightly greased large oven trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Spread the mixture to form a 30cm circle and cook for 15 minutes.

While the bases are cooking, add tomatoes and balsamic vinegar to a pan and allow to soften for 5 minutes. Drain most of the liquid.

When the bases have had 15 minutes, take them out and sprinkle with goat's cheese and cook for a further 10 minutes. Let them cool slightly, then top with pesto and tomatoes and finally the roughly torn basil leaves to serve.

 


-By Deanna Copland 

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