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  • Writer's pictureNick Clarizio

Tis' (almost) the (Tomato) Season (Menu #5)

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

In Italian, the word for tomato is pomodoro ---or golden apple (Sandborn 2016). They're certainly the apple of my eye, and they're worth their weight in gold and then some. To be more serious, this name comes from the fact that the first tomatoes to arrive in Europe in the mid-15oos were yellow (Sandborn 2016). Another serious[ly metal] fact: their scientific name is Lycopersicon, which means wolf peach.


Aside from having cool names, tomatoes are nutrition powerhouses. To name a few of their health benefits:

"Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C. Consuming foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals" (Sandborn 2016).
"Fresh tomatoes are very rich in potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control our heart rate and blood pressure caused by sodium" (Sandborn 2016).
"Tomatoes carry average levels of vital B-complex vitamins such as folates, thiamin, niacin and riboflavin, as well some essential minerals like iron, calcium and manganese" (Sandborn 2016).
"The antioxidants present in tomatoes are scientifically found to be protective against many cancers, including colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung and pancreatic tumors" (Sandborn 2016).

The fun doesn't stop there. Tomatoes are also little orbs of flavor. Monosodium glutamate (or MSG), the salt responsible for the umami flavor in certain foods, forms naturally in foods that contain free glutamate and sodium (Kapadia 2016). Tomatoes happen to be one of these foods ---hence, why a good, ripe tomato bursts with savory flavor. (Other foods with naturally occurring MSG include: parmigiano, mushrooms, and beef (Kapadia 2016).) Personally, it saddens me knowing that the wolf peach has lost a good chunk of this flavor over time as we bred out its flavorful bite in favor of sturdiness and shelf life (Tieman et al. 2017). Fear not, though! We have potential solutions. As Science notes,

"Tieman et al. combined tasting panels with chemical and genomic analyses of nearly 400 varieties of tomatoes. They identified some of the flavorful components that have been lost over time. Identification of the genes that have also gone missing provides a path forward for reinstating flavor to commercially grown tomatoes" (Tieman et al. 2017).

I suppose science took-eth away flavor only to giv-eth it back to the humble golden apple. I'm doing my part to contribute to this trend by growing heirloom Cherokee Purple Tomatoes in my backyard vegetable box. Cherokee Purple Tomatoes are nothing short of breathtaking. A friend once described them as 'the reason why she could never go back to supermarket tomatoes'.


The modern production of the Cherokee Purple traces back to the 1990s when "John Green [of] Sevierville, Tennessee [...] shipped off a packet of tomato seeds from his home in Seveirville, Tennessee, to prolific seed-saver and tomato connoisseur, Craig Lahoullier [sic], with a note" (Editorial 2020). The note detailed how Green got them from a nearby woman who got them from neighbors who had "allegedly been growing the tomatoes in their garden for about 100 years" after having received them from Cherokee Indians (Editorial 2020). LeHouiller honored the story and the color of the tomatoes by naming them 'Cherokee Purple" (Editorial 2020). LeHouiller enjoyed them so much that he began sharing them with friends and seed companies, "marking the beginning of their commercial availability in the United States" (Editorial 2020). Slow Food describes the Purple Cherokee thusly:

"When ripe, the Cherokee Purple tomato has a dark, dusty rose color with green-tinged shoulders. They’re very sweet and have a rich, almost smoky flavor. The fruit is large and refreshingly acidic, thick-skinned with an earthy, lingering flavor. Cherokee Purple tomato plants are prolific — a great heirloom variety for gardeners and farmers alike" (Editorial 2020).

For more on LeHoullier and the story of the Purple Cherokee, check out this article: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/08/18/432771713/cherokee-purple-the-story-behind-one-of-our-favorite-tomatoes (Barclay 2015).


Mine aren't ready for harvest yet. But the vines have rocketed into the sky height wise! For now, I'm getting my tomatoes from the local farmer's market, where they're sourcing them from Southern Illinois. They're pretty good, but I really can't wait to have the fruits of my own labors ready to eat. To honor my favorite season--- tomato season--- I've written an unofficial ode to tomato-based dishes. It's MSG-free, but I hope you savor it nonetheless.


Loving the Love Apple

Shakshuka ---A Yolky Sunrise over Crimson Hills of pepper and onion;

Curry ---A Creamy Concoction of spices and veggies, labor and love;

Stuffed Tomatoes ---A July Christmas gift, bursting at the seams;

Caprese ---Simple pleasure at its most luxurious

BLT --- 3 ingredients, the best for last

Shirazi Salad --- simply sublime.



Without further ado, here's the menu for June 19-24.




A batch of yogurt I made :)


Fesenjan + Shirazi

Lablabi, Chicken, and Couscous

Ribs, Shirazi, & Rice

Spanakorizo, Fried egg, and Sourdough

Ibid.

Tomato-Zucchini dip, rice, meat cigars

Ribs, Shirazi, & Rice

Chicken, Lablabi, and couscous



Tomato-Zucchini dip, rice, meat cigars



Bibliography


Barclay, Eliza. 2015. “Cherokee Purple: The Story Behind One Of Our Favorite Tomatoes.” NPR, August

18, 2015, sec. Food History & Culture. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/08/18/432771713

Editorial, SFUSA. 2020. “Cherokee Purple Tomato - Slow Food USA.” April 2, 2020.

https://slowfoodusa.org/cherokee-purple-tomato/

Kapadia, Jess. 2016. “Is There MSG in Tomatoes?” Food Republic. August 22, 2016.

Sandborn, Dixie. 2016. “Tomatoes and the Science behind Them.” 4-H Plants, Soils & Gardening. July 20,

Tieman, Denise, Guangtao Zhu, Marcio F. R. Resende, Tao Lin, Cuong Nguyen, Dawn Bies, Jose Luis

Rambla, et al. 2017. “A Chemical Genetic Roadmap to Improved Tomato Flavor.” Science 355 (6323):

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