I have never liked tomatoes. I like tomato-based products (ketchup, spaghetti sauce, marinara, etc.) but tomatoes have always grossed me out.
I joined a CSA (Community-Sponsored Agriculture) program this year and receive large amounts of organic, locally-grown vegetables each week…including tomatoes. I talked a little about how a CSA program works in my Benefits of Home-Grown Food post. As a recent college graduate (who also moved out of the parents not too long ago) I have learned in the last couple of years just how expensive being a “grown-up” really is. That said, I have made it a personal goal to never throw food away. I carefully plan my grocery list each week and make sure if something is nearing expiration that it gets eaten right away. The few times I’ve actually had to throw things away I experienced mild chest pain (okay, kidding, but it was not a fun experience)! You can imagine my horror when I saw tomatoes come through in my recent CSA deliveries. What could I possibly do with tomatoes? Can them? Eat them? Throw them away? No way!
So I came up with a plan. I am going to teach myself to like tomatoes. I read somewhere that if you eat something 10 days in a row it will help you learn to like it. While I’m partially motivated by my desire to not waste food, I’m equally as motivated by the amazing health benefits tomatoes have to offer. Tomatoes are a nutritional powerhouse; a true super-food.
The Health Benefits of Tomatoes
Tomatoes have so many health benefits! They contain a large amount of lycopene, the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color. Lycopene can help improve vision, lower cholesterol, reduce your risk of developing heart disease and can even decrease your risk of certain types of cancers such as prostate, lung, stomach, breast, pancreatic, cervix, colon and rectal cancer. Tomatoes are a nutrient dense food. They’re full of nutrients but low in calories. Organic tomatoes provide more nutrients than non-organic tomatoes, too.
Besides their antioxidant properties tomatoes can also keep keep your skin healthy. Lycopene may help with collagen production. Collagen is the protein in your skin that helps keep your skin tight and wrinkle-free. Studies have also suggested that tomatoes may help protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Eating 20 tomatoes is no substitute for wearing sunscreen though, so make sure to choose a natural sunscreen to wear when you’re outside.
Tomatoes may also help reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. One study found that men who had higher levels of lycopene in their blood had a reduced risk of experiencing a stroke. Tomatoes can also help boost your bone health and reduce your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. My grandpa had Parkinson’s disease so I found this to be an especially interesting benefit.
Quite a few benefits, right? Tomatoes are also high in the following nutrients:
- Alpha and beta carotene
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Learning to Love (or at least tolerate)
With all the health benefits tomatoes have to offer (and because I get quite a few of them each week in my CSA) I figured it was time to learn to love or at least tolerate tomatoes. I decided to follow the “Learn to Like in 10 Days” program. Here’s how it went.
- Day One: I forgot. Okay, that’s a lie. I didn’t forget. I took a tomato out of my refrigerator, smelled it, got grossed out, and put it back in the fridge. What can I say, I’m not perfect.
- Day 1.5 (AKA day one redo): I made crockpot chicken tacos. This involved putting chicken breast, salsa, tomatoes, black beans and corn into a crock pot and cooking for 6-7 hours. I then shredded the chicken and put the chicken and sauce on tortillas. I grumbled a little bit about the tomato taste but was able to force down (okay, I ate 3) a few tacos. Not too bad!
- Days 2-5 were a bit of a struggle. I received a large amount of tomatoes in this week’s CSA so figuring out what to do with them was a bit difficult. So I ended up chopping and pureeing some of them and throwing them in random dishes I ate throughout the week.
- Day 6 I attempted to eat a raw tomato. I sliced one up and put some salt and pepper on it but still did not like it. I began to worry that my “learn to like tomatoes” experiment might not be successful. That’s when I decided to forgo the experiment and search for tomato-based recipes and found one of my new favorites.
Baked Tomatoes with Quinoa, Corn and Green Chiles
I have to give Cooking Light, a healthy cooking magazine, credit for this recipe. I did a quick Google search for healthy tomato recipes and this was one of the first ones that came up.
- 2 poblano chiles
- 2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears)
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 2/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 large ripe tomatoes
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 ounces Colby-Jack cheese, shredded
- Preheat broiler to high
- Cut the chiles in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place chile halves, skin side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hands. Broil 8 minutes or until blackened. Place in a paper bag; close tightly. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel chiles. Coarsely chop chiles; place in a bowl. Add corn and onion to pan; broil 10 minutes, stirring twice. Add corn mixture to chopped chiles; stir in oregano, oil, lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, cumin and black pepper.
- Cut tops off tomatoes; set aside. Carefully scoop out tomato pulp, leaving shells intact. Drain pulp through a sieve over a bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract liquid. Reserve 1 1/4 cups liquid, and discard remaining liquid. Sprinkle tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Invert tomatoes on a wire rack; let stand 30 minutes. Dry insides of tomatoes with a paper towel.
- Place quinoa in a fine sieve and place sieve in a large bowl. Cover quinoa with water. Using your hands, rub the grains together for 30 seconds; rinse and drain. Repeat the procedure twice. Drain well. Combine reserved tomato liquid, quinoa, 1/4 cup water, and the remaining salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; fluff with a fork. Add quinoa mixture to corn mixture; toss well.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spoon about 3/4 cup corn mixture into each tomato. Divide cheese evenly among tomatoes. Place tomatoes and tops, if desired, on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Preheat broiler. Broil the tomatoes 1 1/2 minutes or until cheese melts. Place tomato tops on tomatoes, if desired.
So did I learn to like tomatoes? Not really. Can I tolerate them now? Yes. With all their health benefits I may try and include them in even more recipes! Do you have a favorite tomato recipe? Feel free to share!