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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tomato, Tomata, makes the Salata

Perhaps the most popular and widely grown vegetable in the home garden is the tomato. Grown in most parts of the world it is interesting that it was once thought to be poisonous. In the botanical world it is considered a berry, so called a fruit. Yet in the marketplace it is called a vegetable. What do you do with an abundance of  these 'gold apples', as they once were called, when they all seem to ripen on the vine at once? We look so forward to that vine ripened goodness after having to resort to tasteless supermarket tomatoes during the off season, yet within days we are wondering what to do with them all. Well, you can certainly eat them, but did you know you can also add them to your collection of kitchen beauty treatments?

Some rheumatoid arthritis sufferers may find it best to avoid tomatoes in their diet as this member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family may aggravate their inflammation. Also, those with diverticulosis need to remove the seeds first.  However for most, tomatoes are very beneficial. Being rich in nutrition and mineral salts tomatoes are used to stimulate a poor appetite and can do wonders for improving the health of a weak liver. Lycopene is the red pigment found in rosy colored vegetables. This potent antioxidant ranks right up there with vitamin C.

There are two ways to enjoy tomato juice. For juicing, just wash, cut into quarters and run them through your juicer. Fresh raw juice maintains its vitamin C, whereas heating for freezing or canning purposes destroys a portion of this very important antioxidant. The plus side of the tomato is that with its high acid content they can be cold packed into jars and with a waterbath of only about fifteen minutes much of the vitamin C is still present.

If you have a surplus and want to utilize them all at once but haven't the time to deal with canning jars, they can  easily be made into juice and frozen. Just cut up (don't bother to peel), and put into a large pot. Slightly crush the first few layers to have liquid on the bottom. Slowly bring to a boil and keeping it on medium heat cook till soft. It doesn't take long, just be sure to stir and keep an eye on them so they don't scorch. If tomatoes scorch the taste of the whole pot is ruined. Cool a bit so you don't suffer a burn from splashing juice when you ladle the cooked tomatoes over to a food mill. Have ready a large bowl to catch the juice and another small bowl to catch the pulp. Run the cooked tomatoes through the food mill which will separate the juice from the pulp, wait until cool and transfer into freezer containers. Add the pulp to your compost pile if you have one. Once the juice is frozen you can use as needed for drinking or for use in recipes. Tomato juice can be turned into tomato sauce simply by adding chopped onions, celery, green pepper and garlic and cooking on low heat down to a thicker consistency. Then season as desired.

This is the food mill I have but there are many choices out there from which to choose. This type is now considered vintage but I found a link for it on a neat site called 1StopRetroShop
Super Retro Red Plastic Hand Crank Food Mill made in Italy
This food mill is also awesome to make applesauce or mash down home cooked pumpkin.

If you find you haven't the time even for making tomato juice, then just add the tomatoes to a freezer bag as you get them in and freeze them just as they are.  They'll be ready for you when you have the time to make a sauce or on hand for those recipes that call for tomatoes. Once frozen, they'll have to be used in a cooked recipe, rather than used as a raw tomato, but having your own tomatoes during the off season is a lot nicer than relying on canned tomatoes. You'll be pleasantly surprised to discover that freezing whole tomatoes is a time saving way to remove the skins without the bother of scalding in a pot of hot water, a task of canning that always seemed to me so labor intensive and a mess. Just run hot water over it and the skin comes right off.

As for your beauty treatments, you can create a wonderful facial. Since tomatoes are mildly acidic they are great to use as an astringent mask for oily skin. Using a clean cotton ball or round, spread an even layer of fresh tomato juice over your face and neck. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Sensitive skin would do better with yellow tomatoes as they contain less acid. This treatment is also good to remove blackheads. For a bit of exfoliation, you can add some tomato juice to a bit of cornmeal and use as a facial scrub. Just be very gentle. As a side note, tomato juice is also very soothing for relieving the sting of sunburn.

So enjoy your garden harvest or take advantage of those farmer's markets!

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