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August 4, 2023

The Celebrity of Summer, Tomatoes!

When the sun is high in the sky, the humidity is visible, and the Junebugs begin to zoom awkwardly by your head with every step through the garden, that’s when we know the tomatoes are bursting with the flavors, juices, and colors we’ve come to associate with summer. Many of us have memories of juicy red tomatoes dripping down our arms onto our picnic plates during the summer.  And lucky for us, we live in the epicenter of tomato growing. People come from all over for a Hanover tomato. Festivals have been dedicated to this juicy summer treat and the Hanover County welcome sign even features a tomato. We pride ourselves in letting all new visitors know the biggest celebrity in town. But did you know that a Hanover tomato is not a variety of tomato? In fact, every single tomato that is grown in Hanover County, Virginia is a Hanover tomato - red slicers, fun heirlooms, and even cherry tomatoes are all considered Hanover tomatoes. 


How?

This is because the growing conditions in Hanover are perfect for growing the best-tasting tomatoes. The soil, the climate, and the topography combined contain the exact elements that produce the perfect summer fruit. Hanover County is surrounded by 3 rivers and sits just atop the Atlantic Seaboard Fall Line, which means it has the perfect combination of sandy soil as well as mineral-rich soil - a tomato plant’s dream. 

Not only are tomatoes the belles of the ball when it comes to summer produce, but they also happen to naturally ripen at exactly the right time of year for you to reap the most of their health benefits. Tomatoes that are allowed to ripen on the vine are filled with higher levels of health markers such as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. This is a reason why buying locally is so important. Tomatoes grown locally for our neighbors and community consumption are allowed to remain on the vine longer, ensuring higher levels of health benefits. 

The Many Health Benefits of Tomatoes:

Fights Cancer and Other Chronic Illnesses

Tomatoes are packed with antioxidants. Most famously, lycopene. Research shows that lycopene, coupled with other phytochemicals found within tomatoes help fight off many types of cancers as well as other chronic diseases. In fact, tomatoes are well known for a trio of antioxidants that are present: zeta-carotene, phytoene, and phytofluene. This trio works hard to fight against and slow down age-related chronic illnesses like heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and cognitive decline by inhibiting pro-inflammatory reactions within the body. 

Heart Health

It’s because of this high concentration of antioxidants, specifically lycopene, that tomatoes are heart-healthy. These antioxidants work hard to fight off free radical damage and protect your heart (the body’s hardest-working muscle). Studies have found that supplementing with antioxidant-rich tomato extract can lower blood pressure and cholesterol naturally and protect blood vessel integrity. Lutein, another antioxidant found in high concentrations in tomatoes, has been found to help prevent and slow down the thickening of the arteries. Additionally, oxidation is the most widely accepted theory for the development of hardening and thickening of arteries. Therefore, the antioxidant concentration found in tomatoes is truly heart-healthy.   

Skin Health

Tomatoes are incredibly high in vitamin C - a vitamin that is crucial for keeping the skin healthy and strong. Additionally, as mentioned before, tomatoes are exceptionally high in lutein. Lutein has been found to be helpful in protecting against sun damage to skin and skin cancer, which is mighty convenient since tomatoes grow in the height of the summer when we could all use a little more protection from the sun’s strong UV rays. 

Bone Health

Lycopene is also well known for its promotion of bone health, especially in older women. Studies have looked at lycopene consumption by elderly women and have found that those who lacked significant lycopene dietary intake were at a much higher risk for bone-related diseases. 

Eye Health

Again, due to the high concentration of lutein present in tomatoes, tomatoes have been found to act as natural macular degeneration prevention. 

3 Tasty Tomato Recipes:

Pico de Gallo with Cabbage

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups diced Roma tomatoes (from 4-5 tomatoes)
  • 2 cups diced white onion (from 1 large onion)
  • 2 cups chopped green cabbage (from ½ head of cabbage)
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
  • 1 cup packed chopped fresh cilantro leaves (from about 1-2 bunches)
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

Instructions: 

  1. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, cabbage, jalapeños, cilantro, lime juice, and salt.
  2. Serve with chips on the side for scooping.

15-Minute Mediterranean Chickpea Skillet

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar/can – about 2 cups of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, striped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • 10 basil leaves, chopped

Instructions: 

  1. In a large pan with a lid add tomatoes and onion and let simmer at medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add chickpeas and stir, let simmer covered with the lid for 5 min.
  3. Add garlic, zucchini, and bell peppers. Stir together, cover for 2 min.
  4. Turn off heat, add basil, olive oil. Sprinkle sesame seeds, chili powder, and nigella seeds on top.
  5. Dinner is ready. Serve hot.

Heirloom Tomato Galette 


Ingredients: 

Dough:

  • 1/2 cup Salted Butter
  • 1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour, sifted
  • pinch of Salt
  • pinch of Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Cold Water – approx.

Filling:

  • 4 Shallots, diced (approx. 1 cup’s worth)
  • 2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil + more for drizzling
  • 8 oz Goat Cheese
  • 2 – 3 tbsps Honey
  • 3 – 4 Heirloom Tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt & Coarse Black Peppercorn – approx.
  • 2 tbsp Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Large Egg, beaten

Instructions: 

  1. Begin by preparing the dough. Using a handheld cheese grater grate butter into a small bowl, then freeze for 10 minutes (scroll this recipe for details). While butter freezes, combine flour, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  2. When ready, whisk cold grated butter into the flour mixture until a mealy texture takes hold, then slowly begin adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough takes shape. Next, gather the dough in a ball and transfer to a lightly floured surface before shaping into a flattened round.  Tightly wrap in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for 45 minutes until the dough is firm and cold.
  3. While dough chills, in a small skillet, combine shallots and 2 tsp EVOO. Saute over medium-high flame until shallots are lightly caramelized (~10 minutes), then remove from heat to cool.
  4. Preheat oven to 375F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper, sprinkling the top with a touch of flour.
  5. With a floured rolling pin roll out the chilled dough into a 1/8″ thick sheet, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Crumble goat cheese in a circular motion over the rolled-out dough, leaving a roughly 2″ border along the edges. Drizzle a heavy serving of honey over goat cheese, then evenly top with caramelized shallots. Next, liberally season sliced tomatoes with salt & pepper before layering over goat cheese and shallots. Generously drizzle additional EVOO over tomatoes, then lastly sprinkle with thyme.
  6. Fold up the edges of the dough around the tomatoes, then brush the crust with beaten egg. Bake the galette for 1 hour* until the crust is golden and the tomatoes have begun to char, then cool for 2-3 minutes before serving.

*Every oven is different, so begin watching the galette at the 45-minute mark for doneness.


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