Every spring my head fills with the vision of tomatoes of all sorts growing in my garden. Last year I grew the most expensive tomatoes, not because of the variety, seed or careful cross-pollination of my favorite plants. NO! Last year was the year of the critters rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, and ground hogs. The Fisher Cat* was out and about feasting on duck eggs across the street but he had no taste for the critters. I suppose it was the first year that we had no dogs around to mark their territory and leave me with poop patrol. Every year one wonders which little bug will attack your beautiful vegetables but I never expected the critter wars of last year. One day coming home from work I noticed two ground hogs sitting in the middle of the garden enjoying their buffet. They had no preferences flowers, veggies, herbs gone to the ground. They were there first and I could have what was left was the expression on their faces, I did not faze them. I tried everything to keep them away Fox urine, pinwheels, hair and ended up with chicken wire, which kept the ground hogs at bay but that meant fair game for the little critters. The year before I had an unspoken agreement with a chipmunk he would pull off and eat one tomato until it was gone then move to the next usually took a few days to complete the cycle, I was amazed he did that. I thought that was a fair deal I had more than I could use. Last year it was a bite or two then on to the next and the next and I am sure you get the picture. I suppose he felt safer with the cage and the rest of his family around him. Then some plight wiped my Roma tomatoes and there went my roasted tomato soup. So after the war was waged and lost I ended up buying them from the local stand or grocery store. Oh well this year we will stick to cherry tomatoes and on the deck. Lyn thinks I am fooling myself chipmunks can climb, but I just have to try I have always had a garden and its spring I have cleaned out the field mouse condo (BBQ) so here we go again. Don’t get me goin on the birds and my blueberries……
Tomato, a nutritious fruit commonly used as vegetable, is another wonderful gift of Mayans. The vegetable has grabbed the attention of millions health seekers for its incredible phytochemical properties. Interestingly, it has much more health benefiting qualities than that in an apple!
Fun tomato facts about eating
- American habits. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans eat between 22- 24 pounds of tomatoes per person, per year. (More than half of those munchies are ketchup and tomato sauce.)
- Popularity. The tomato is America’s fourth most popular fresh-market vegetable behind potatoes, lettuce, and onions.
- Increasing popularity. Americans have increased their tomato consumption 30% over the last 20 years (mostly in processed forms such as sauce, paste, and salsa).
- Toxic? While tomatoes are perfectly safe and healthy to eat, their leaves are actually toxic!
- How will you take your tomatoes? As of 2007, Americans spend more on salsa than tomato ketchup.
- Processed tomatoes. Americans consume three-fourths of their tomatoes in processed form.
Fun tomato facts about growers
- The average Joe. 93% American gardening households grow tomatoes.
- Fresh tomatoes. Fresh-market tomatoes are grown in all 50 states.
- Biggest worldwide producers. The largest worldwide producer of tomatoes is China, followed by USA, Turkey, India and Egypt.
- Biggest U.S. producer – processed tomatoes. California produces 96% of the tomatoes processed in the U.S.
- Biggest U.S. producer – fresh tomatoes. Florida is the number one producer of fresh market tomatoes (except in 2008).
Health benefits of Tomato
Tomatoes are one of the low calorie vegetables containing just 18 calories per 100 g. They are also very low in any fat contents and have zero cholesterol levels. Nonetheless, they are excellent sources of antioxidants, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Because of their all-round qualities, dieticians and nutritionists often recommend them to be included in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
The antioxidants present in tomatoes are scientifically found to be protective against cancers including colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic tumors.
Lycopene, a flavonoid antioxidant, is the unique phytochemical present in the tomatoes. Red varieties are especially concentrated in this antioxidant. Together with carotenoids, it has the ability to protect cells and other structures in the body from harmful oxygen free radicals. Studies have shown that lycopeneprevents skin damage from ultra-violet (UV) rays and offers protection from skin cancer.
Zeaxanthin is another flavonoid compound present abundantly in this vegetable. Zeaxanthin helps protect eyes from “age related macular disease” (ARMD) in the elderly persons by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays.
The vegetable contains very good levels of vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as α and ß-carotenes, xanthins and lutein. Altogether, these pigment compounds are found to have antioxidant properties and are take part in vision, maintain healthy mucus membranes and skin, and bone health. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids is known to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
In addition, they are also good source of antioxidant vitamin-C(provide 21% of recommended daily levels per 100 g); consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.
Fresh tomato is very rich in potassium. 100 g contain 237 mg of potassium and just 5 mg of sodium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure caused by sodium.
They contain moderate amounts of many vital B-complex vitamins such as folates, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin as well some essential minerals like iron, calcium, manganese and other trace elements.
More interesting facts
Tomato History from Veggie Cage®
Did you know that tomatoes do not have to be a deep red color to be an outstanding source of lycopene?
*New England Fisher cats
Are one of the largest members of the Mustelid family, which includes species like the mink, weasel, otter and skunk. These are noted nocturnal animals and therefore very hard to observe. They are however active during both daytime as ell as night time and that too, mostly during the time just before sunset and just before sunrise, when it mainly searches for food. Their cry is similar to that of a high pitched one of a child’s and therefore can sound very eerie in the nights.