It’s sunny and warm and time to plant tomatoes finally!

Trevor with tomatoes bred for hanging basketsIndigo, a true purple cherry tomato with lots of antioxidantsHeirloom TomatoesGreen Heirloom TomatoContainer Gardening with TomatoesBeefsteak TomatoCherokee Purple Heirloom TomatoLadybug on tomato plantHeirloom TomatoesYellow Pear TomatoStriped Heirloom TomatoesYellow boy tomatoSan MarzanoYellow Pear TomatoSweet 100 Cherry Tomato

The yellow, gold, pink green and pale red tomatoes have very little lycopene.  You can still enjoy them for their flavor but they have less antioxidant value. We’ve all been fascinated by a new book by Jo Robinson, Eating on the Wild Side.  Jo is a health writer and food activist and she has written or coauthored fourteen books.

She has researched the dramatic nutritional differences between the wild plants in our original diet and the man-made varieties we have today.  In her book she discusses the best varieties for us to grow and select today for their nutrional value. Research has shown that wild tomatoes have up to thirty times more cancer fighting lycopene than most of today’s supermarket varieties.  Jo tells us to choose tomatoes first by their color.  She maintains that, in general, tomatoes with the darkest red color have the most lycopene.
Secondly Jo tells us to pick tomatoes by size.  Small, dark red cherry tomatoes have the most lycopene per ounce.  They are usually sweeter and more flavorful too.  The smaller-is-better rule even applies within the cherry category itself.  Grape tomatoes are smaller than most cherry tomatoes and are more nutritious as well.  Currant tomatoes are the smallest of them all.  They are actually a different species.  They belong to the Lycoperscion pimpinellifolium species and are the superstar of tomato nutrition.

Most people snack on the smaller cherry varieties, and enjoy them raw in salads and hors d’oeuvres.  Jo says to cook them down and turn them into an intensely flavored, high-lycopene tomato sauce. Tomatoes are one of the few fruits that are better for you cooked than raw and the longer you cook them the more health benefits you get.  Heat increases their food value in two ways.  It breaks down the fruit’s cell walls, making their nutrients more bioavailable and heat actually twists the lycopene molecule into a new configuration that is easier to absorb.

Jo’s most surprising find was that the most nutritious tomatoes in the supermarket aren’t in the produce section, but in the canned goods aisle.  Processed tomatoes, whether canned or cooked into a paste or sauce, are the richest known sources of lycopene.  Not only have these tomatoes been exposed to heat in the canning process, but they are the tomatoes that are grown for the food industry, picked when they are red-ripe and processed immediately.  No flavor is lost along the way.  Tomato paste, the most concentrated form of processed tomatoes has up to ten times more lycopene than raw tomatoes.

Tomato paste, unlike most other canned tomato products doesn’t have any added salt or sugar and is the concentrated essence of ripe tomatoes.  She tells us to add small amounts of tomato paste to your non-tomato dishes.  Tomato paste adds a multidimensional flavor that enhances the taste of the other ingredients.  She claims that chefs add it to soups, stews, casseroles and egg dishes.  The tomato flavor is barely detectable but the flavor of the food will seem rounder and more balanced.

We love Jo’s book, but we aren’t ready to give up any of our favorites including the big beautiful beefsteaks, Italian Romas, flavorfull heirlooms and mild yellow Lemon Boys and Sungolds.  We are still enjoying them both raw and cooked for their flavor, color, and the pure joy of seeing them ripen on our garden vines. Nothing in the grocery store can top the taste of a freshly picked garden tomato eaten immediately on a hot summer day.

Memorial Day is the Traditional Day for Planting Tomatoes in Boulder
Tomato plants love full sun, and a warm, fertile, well drained soil. We like to amend the soil with either Maxfield’s or Foxfarm’s Potting Soil.  Work in some high phosphorus fertilizer and dig a good size hole so that the plants can be buried up to their first set of leaves. You can actually plant them in a shallow trench where the soil is warmest. Trenches work well if your seedlings have started to get leggy, too. Just place the plant in the trench lying on its side with the top set of leaves exposed. The exposed plant will right itself within a week, and additional roots will form all along the buried stem.

Easy Tomato Recipe
Pasta With Basil, Tomatoes, and Feta

Basil and Tomatoes are great companion plants in the garden and compliment each other perfectly in the kitchen. This simple recipe is perfect for a summer night when both your garden tomatoes and basil are at their peak.
12 ounces dried farfalle pasta
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes ( we like to mix all the red, orange, and yellow varieties)
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup pine nuts
In a 4 to 5 quart pan bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally until the pasta is just tender. Usually this takes about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Shake the skillet frequently to prevent over browning. The pine nuts are small and full of oil and will burn quickly if not watched carefully. When the nuts are fragrant and brown, transfer them to a plate to cool.

Rinse, core, seed and chop the tomatoes. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, basil, 1/2 cup of the feta, the garlic and olive oil. Add the hot cooked pasta and mix well. Salt and pepper the pasta to taste and then sprinkle it with the remaining 1/4 cup feta and the toasted pine nuts.

Some nights when we get home from work late and we’re not in the mood to core, seed and chop tomatoes, we’ve gone into the garden and picked all the different varieties of cherry tomatoes that are ready. We combine sweet 100’s, yellow pears, sungolds, and Moby grapes and throw them whole into the pasta. The kids always like this rendition the best.

Serve with a big salad mixing all the different greens from the
garden and some good garlic bread. Serves 4 generously.

Try Some of Our Favorite Tomatoes!

Incredible Flavor–Very sweet, low acid. Yellow flesh dappled red inside and out 1 to 2 pound beefsteak type fruits. This is a perfect slicing tomato. We love to serve it simply sliced and topped with balsamic vinegar, sprinkled with shaved parmesan, and a little arugula on the side.

Celebrity                                                                                                                                                         Celebrity is a robust determinate hybrid that is very easy to grow and will produce a bumper crop of sweet, flavorful, disease resistant, crack-free tomatoes. These gorgeous red tomatoes are good for slicing, canning and even making sauce.

Indigo                                                                                                                                                                 Indigo is the first true purple tomato.  It was bred at Oregon State in an effort to create tomatoes with high levels of antioxidants.  We grew it for the first time last year.  The purple color is a deep, dark eggplant purple, and the first time we picked it the insides were a bright green that contrasted beautifully with the outside purple. However, they weren’t ripe and did not taste right.  We left them alone until the end of summer when the bottoms of each of these cherry type tomatoes turned red, but the top three quarters kept the purple color.  Then they were finally ready to eat.  They have high concentrations of anthocyanins so they are good for you. We liked (not loved) the taste with its balance of acids and sugars, and the color looked great in a salad.

Black Krim
Sometimes looks are deceiving. It may be the ugliest tomato that we’ve grown but it sure is the tastiest. Medium sized 3 to 4 inch fruits are very dark maroon with green shoulders. Heat tolerant.

Sun Gold (Carol’s Grandkids’ Favorite)
These golden orange, very sweet cherries are borne in large clusters. Prolific and disease free, they are perfect for eating while walking through the garden.

Eva’s Purple Ball 
Possibly the prettiest deep pink/purple tomato we have ever seen. Beautiful and delicious. No cracks, perfectly round, blemish free fruits. Loves the heat!

A super variety for the mountains. This potato-leaf variety from Czechoslovakia is very cold-tolerant, and very, very early. Only 65 days from sowing to fruit. Bears an abundance of very sweet 2 to 3 inch deep red fruits.

Better Boy
The taste and ease of growth has long made this the most popular and prolific tomato in the U.S. It has that classic tomato flavor balanced between sugars and acid, large size and smooth red skin. VFN Hybrid. Holds the 1987 Guinness Book of World Records for 342 lbs of fruit from just one Better Boy plant.

Huge, fragrant and delicious, these big beauties can weigh a pound or more. Plants produce plenty of giant tomatoes, but not as overwhelmingly as smaller varieties. They’re perfect for that large tomato slice to cover your sandwich or hamburger. You’ll definitely need a tomato cage for these plants and their large fruits.

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