It’s been said that “a world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins.” So true. Just as a violin (or fiddle, if you will) is essential in classical, klezmer or country music, the tomato is integral to many a home cook’s repertoire. They add color to our salads, are the basis for many delicious sauces, and without ketchup as a dip, would our kids ever eat broccoli?
There are at least 10,000 varieties of tomatoes and probably about as many ways to prepare and enjoy them. I like to think of the tomato as 10,000 ways Hashem shows us how much He loves us!
Not only in the vast variety and pleasing taste do we see Hashem’s handiwork here. Each tomato we eat is brimming with essential nutrients we need every day. They are high in vitamins C, A and B and the minerals potassium, iron, and phosphorous. They have more fiber than a slice of whole wheat bread and are naturally low in calories.
Tomatoes shine among the stellar cast of vegetables high in antioxidants. Lycopene, the antioxidant found in potent concentrations in the tomato, is the most powerful carotenoind in fighting aging of the skin. Evidence mounts that adding tomatoes, especially cooked, to our diet is associated with a reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Common wisdom says that the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables is diminished upon cooking, however processing of tomatoes can quadruple lycopene absorption. Processed tomato products such as canned tomatoes, pasteurized tomato juice, soup, sauce, and -yes kids, even ketchup!- contain the highest concentrations of bioavailable lycopene.
Also contrary to common wisdom, we now know that serving cooked tomato with oil rich dishes increases the body’s ability to absorb its nutrients into the bloodstream. Now that’s a new refrain. Kind of makes pizza sounds like a health food, doesn’t it?
Renee Chernin lives with her husband, David, in Jerusalem’s Old City where she writes and cooks on her forthcoming cookbook, Cooking for The King, the book of Torah insights, recipes and cooking tips designed to bring majesty to the mundane. Get a glimpse of her essays and recipes on thekosherchannel.com
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.