Vegucation: Tomatoes

tomato varieties

About Tomatoes

The title says “Vegucation”, but tomatoes are really a fruit although they are commonly put in the vegetable category. In fact, Arkansas considers the tomato both its state vegetable and its state fruit. Tomatoes are thought to have originated in Peru, where their name literally means “plump thing with a navel.” They are the most common vegetable/fruit to be grown in a home garden. Heirloom tomatoes are grown true from seed unlike many modern hybrid tomatoes we see today making them a very desirable variety.

Why are they beneficial?

Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which is a red pigment. This antioxidant has been shown to decrease the risk for heart disease and cancer. Tomatoes also contain the antioxidant vitamin C which protects your immune system and can also decrease cancer risk. Another nutrient found in tomatoes is vitamin A, which gives you healthy skin and hair. Tomatoes are also 95% water which helps keep you hydrated longer.

When are they in season

Non-greenhouse tomatoes are usually found in Tennessee from June to October, but you can find greenhouse grown tomatoes in the spring.

How long will they keep?heirloom tomatoes

Ripe tomatoes should be kept at room temperature and used as soon as possible. Unripe tomatoes can be kept at room temperature until ripe.

How can I use tomatoes?

Tomatoes are extremely versatile from putting a slice on a sandwich to making homemade tomato sauce. Here’s some new ideas to rethink how you eat tomatoes:

  • Make a mango or peach salsa for taco night.
  • Make a tomato tart for your next brunch. I like this recipe from Food Network. You can make the homemade dough or just buy one pre-made.
  • Make your own “sun dried” tomatoes in the oven. Just sprinkle sliced tomatoes with salt and roast in the oven at 250 degrees for about four hours. These will last a day in the refrigerator, but be sure to bring to room temperature before serving.

Weekly Fig is a private membership association for local sustainable foods.

Meet the Author


Rachel Howard

Rachel is studying to become a registered dietician at UTC. She believes eating real food is the key to a healthy lifestyle, and loves to teach others about nutrition. Rachel enjoys planning healthy and tasty meals and experimenting in the kitchen with new recipes. She likes the challenge of trying to make classic family recipes healthier or learning new cooking techniques.