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Tomatoes are an amazing gift of the Mayans to the whole world.  This humble vegetable from Central America is really a fruit!  Tomatoes are among the healthiest fruits and vegetables we can eat.

Botanically, tomatoes belong to the nightshade vegetable family which also includes chili peppers, potatoes, and eggplant.  Today there are thousands of varieties coming in all shades or red, yellow, orange, pink, purple, and green.   

This little red gem has no cholesterol, is very low in fat, and is packed with flavonoid antioxidants, specifically, lycopene, which has been proven to protect against certain cancers.  Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium, and manganese. To increase iron absorption, include foods high in vitamin C, such as tomatoes, in the same meal as iron-rich foods. Tomatoes also protect again cardiovascular disease, decrease inflammation, protect against sunburn, help lower blood pressure, and are also a good source of fiber.  Research from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests that tomatoes actually release more antioxidants when they are cooked.

Local tomatoes may taste better because they are allowed to ripen naturally on the vine before being picked.  Tomatoes can be grown year-round in greenhouses.  Commercially grown tomatoes can be ripen by wrapping them in a paper bag and setting them on the kitchen counter for a few days.  Try not to store tomatoes in the refrigerator, as it decreases their flavor.  They are best when stored and used at room temperature whenever possible. 

Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable in the US and 93% of Americans with gardens grow them.  We obtain more vitamins from tomatoes than from any other vegetable. Salsa has recently replaced ketchup as the number one condiment sold in the US.  Annual worldwide production of tomatoes is approximately 146 million TONS! That’s a lot of salsa!

Image Credit: Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash