Gardener ‘Shape Up’, Tomato Nutrition Is Tops!

It’s Friday (yay!) and possibly this weekend there will be some time to browse seed catalogs (sans cookies) and make some decisions on what to grow in the edible garden.  Tomatoes are a staple in my garden (probably in most people’s) since ‘growing your own’ has become the way to enjoy them fresh.  Of course, buying them at a local farmer’s market works well too, but still, the point is they were grown locally and harvested a short while before purchase.

DSC_0007Find a plot for tomatoes because besides their sweet/savory flavor, they are tops in nutrition and health benefits.

DSC_0038Rich in vitamin C and vitamin A, tomatoes offer up antioxidants in a big way.  The concentrated levels of just these two vitamins, a.k.a. antioxidants, promote a healthy immune system along with eye/vision health.  (A substantial amount of beta carotene, which the human body converts to vitamin A, is found in tomatoes and is the reason they are known to aid in preserving eye health.)

DSC_0002These are just a couple of the health benefits of eating a diet rich in tomatoes but there are others such as lower risk of high blood pressure and heart disease and better regulation of blood sugar along with helping bones stay strong. Basically, tomatoes pack a powerful punch when it comes to vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

DSC_0060Yes, vitamins and minerals such at vitamin K, B-6, folate and potassium are found in tomatoes but their ‘claim to fame’ is the concentrated levels of lycopene found in them.  (Tomatoes are literally known as the most concentrated food source of lycopene.)

DSC_0012I’m sure you all already know (None of you has been living under a rock for years!) lycopene is an antioxidant compound that is known to scavenge free radicals, or potential problem cells (cancer cells) in the body.  Also a carotenoid, lycopene does the cool job of giving tomatoes and certain other fruits/vegetables their color.

DSC_0074When you consider the tasty availability of all these vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, along with the fact that they are naturally low in sodium, pretty high in fiber and cholesterol free, it becomes a no-brainer  – you must find a spot or at least a pot for your very own tomato plant!

tomato1Decisions, decisions, decisions… one challenge I face is cutting back my list of tomatoes to grow this year.  You see, I attended a local tomato tasting last summer and discovered so many wonderful flavors and variety in color, texture, and size that I came home with quite a long list for the 2014 growing season.

Here’s what is currently on my list.  (OP= open pollinated, HY = hybrid, Heir = Heirloom)

  • Ghost cherry (OP)
  • Golden Currant (OP)
  • Cherry Punch (HY)
  • Sun Sugar (HY)
  • Sweet Million (HY)
  • Juliette (HY)
  • Costoluto Fiorentino (Heir)
  • Costoluto Genovese (Heir)
  • Carmello (HY)
  • Jaune Flamme (Heir)
  • Box Car Willie (Heir)
  • San Marzano (Heir)
  • Sun Gold (HY)
  • Black Krim (Heir)

As you can see, this is a lot and if I were to grow this many varieties, it would probably be the end of me come harvest time!

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How about you?  What tomatoes will you grow this year?  How do the health benefits of tomatoes influence your growing decisions.. at all? Is one of your favorites on this list?

P.S. If you are new to gardening and do not understand the difference between open pollinated, hybrid and heirloom, here is a basic explanation.

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