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Friday, June 12, 2015

Celebrating Summer with Tomatoes

Juicy  ripe tomatoes on a market stall 
The humble tomato has been around for ages: as far back as medieval times when in Britain, they used to hurl criminals with squashy rotting tomatoes as they waited to be sentenced. What a waste, you say and I agree totally.
Today, it is cultivated with pride all over the world recognized as a good source of vitamin C, similar to oranges. But more important, it is an antioxidant fruit which protects us against cancer and heart disease, a vital health food.   

Called tomate in French, you’ll see lots of this juicy fruit summer in Provence – most say it’s a fruit and not a vegetable. Whatever it is, I am slowly getting addicted. I like them raw, slow roasted in the oven with fresh herbs, olive oil, and garlic and simply love the Provencal style tomato dishes.

I’m not sure if it’s because of the geography, terroir, summer sun or maybe a combo of all these but tomatoes here are special, simply fabulous. 

In the past, tomatoes were referred to as pomme d’amour (love apples) because the French thought they had aphrodisiac properties. Nothing beats fresh sun ripe tomatoes, combined with olive oil and garlic they form the basics of food from Provence: bold healthy flavors of a Mediterranean dietary style - you only have to look at any market in Provence (even the smallest town will have one) and in that little market you’ll have a selection of tomato varieties to choose from.

And the main health benefits?
   --   Tomatoes contain high levels of lycopene,l a very powerful antioxidant which helps protect us against the free radicals in the body.  Doctors say a diet rich in lycopene will lower the risk of developing prostate, colorectal and breast cancer. To get the maximum benefit from lycopene, you need to cook them - an exception to the rule that cooking reduces valuable nutrients—cooked tomatoes is healthy for our organisms. The body does not absorb much lycopene from tomatoes in their natural state, it’s the heating and cooking that makes them more nutritional than the raw state.

--  Tomatoes contain vitamin A, great for improving vision, for strong hair and for the protection of the skin.
--  Eat them raw to get the maximum vitamin C. Don’t store them in the fridge though; it will only alter the sublime taste and fresh flavor.

And if you’re in Provence for the first time make sure you try the two delights-, salade niçoise and ratatouille.

Healthy salade niçoise

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