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Tomato soup

This lycopene-rich soup features oven-roasted tomatoes and canned fire-roasted tomatoes.

“I think Jake is barking at the tomatoes,” my older daughter said with a laugh.

I walked over to look out the window, and sure enough, our dachshund was sitting up by our raised bed, begging. No one was near him.

Jake’s mouth was fairly close to the tomato vines dangling over the edge of the 3-foot-tall raised bed. I guess he was hoping a tomato would fall from the vine into his mouth.

Jake already had harvested a cucumber, but he left it on the lawn. It probably was a little prickly in his mouth. Maybe Jake would like a little more variety in his diet instead of his usual dog food.

I was responsible for his begging. I had flipped a couple of cherry tomatoes in his direction the previous day. This dog loves tomatoes.

Previously, I checked to be sure that eating an occasional cherry tomato would not harm our dog. He will be fine. However, the vines and leaves contain solanine, a natural chemical that can be toxic in high amounts.

Animals that eat tomato vines and leaves in excess could get severe gastrointestinal issues. Fortunately, the green leaves and stems of tomatoes are not very tasty, and animals would have to consume quite a lot.

Currently, eating tomato vines and leaves is not on the menu for us, either.

“Let’s call him ‘Mr. Lycopene,’” my husband said.

Tomatoes are known for their high amounts of lycopene, which provides their red color. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant linked to reducing the risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease. The pigment is better absorbed if the tomatoes have been cooked or canned and contain a little fat.

However, research into the role that lycopene plays in fighting disease continues.

In the U.S., most of the lycopene intake comes from spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, tomato juice and ketchup. Watermelon, papaya and pink grapefruit are other lycopene sources.

Tomatoes are low in calories and provide vitamins. One medium-sized tomato (2 1/2 inches in diameter) has 22 calories, 0 grams (g) fat, 1 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate, 1 1/2 g fiber and 6 milligrams (mg) sodium. Tomatoes also provide a variety of vitamins, including vitamins A and C, and minerals such as potassium.

When you select tomatoes, look for fruits that are firm, smooth and plump with good color. By the way, tomatoes are “fruits” of the plant in the world of botany, but we in nutrition consider them to be vegetables because of the way they are used on the menu.

Green tomatoes will ripen off the vine, but they will not have the same flavor as vine-ripened tomatoes.

Handle tomatoes carefully to reduce bruising. Store them at a cool room temperature away from direct sunlight until ripe, then move them to the refrigerator.

If you want to preserve tomatoes for colder months, consider canning or freezing them. We at NDSU Extension have a wide range of information about tomatoes, including making a variety of salsa. https://tinyurl.com/NDSU-tomatoes for details.

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Our “Mr. Lycopene” probably will receive a few more cherry tomatoes this season because we have a bumper crop of tomatoes.

This lycopene-rich recipe features oven-roasted tomatoes and canned fire-roasted tomatoes.

Rustic Tomato Basil Soup

2 1/2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, halved

4 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 Tbsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper, plus more to taste

2 medium onions, chopped

10 garlic cloves, chopped

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans fire-roasted tomatoes with juices

3 c. fresh basil leaves, lightly packed

2 tsp. dried oregano

6 c. unsalted vegetable stock

1 tsp. sugar, depending on sweetness of tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large rimmed sheet pan, combine the fresh tomatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in an even layer for 45 to 60 minutes. While tomatoes are roasting, in a heavy large pot, saute onions in olive oil for one minute. Add garlic and saute another minute. Add the fire-roasted tomatoes with juices, fresh basil, oregano and vegetable stock. Stir to combine well. Add your oven-roasted tomatoes (and any liquid that may be on baking sheet) and bring to a low boil. Simmer for 30 minutes uncovered. Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree soup until desired texture. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar to taste, if needed. Add additional salt and/or black pepper as needed.

Makes 12 (1 cup) servings. Each serving has 100 calories, 5 g fat, 2 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber and 510 mg sodium.

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Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is an NDSU  Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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