IMG_0008-tomatoes.jpgDid you know that in the U.S., until the late 1880s, tomatoes were grown as ornamental plants, because they were considered poisonous? As members of the nightshade family, some of their cousins are toxic to humans. According to the legend, a Colonel Robert Gibbin Johnson announced that at noon on September 26, 1820, he would eat a basket of tomatoes in front of a New Jersey courthouse. The crowd waited for him to die, and were shocked when he survived!

On the flip side, tomatoes were also called “love apples,” and as such, were considered aphrodisiacs. Legend has it that a Frenchman traveling in Italy was fascinated by a new taste sensation. He asked the chef the name of the ingredient in the dish and the chef said Pomme de’ Moors (apple of the Moors). The Frenchman supposedly misunderstood and translated it as Pom d’Amore (love apple). The French are also credited with giving the tomato the culinary symbol of the French Revolution, because of its bright red color.

Regardless of the legends surrounding this botanically labeled fruit treated as a vegetable, or maybe because of them, tomatoes leave a far-reaching culinary legacy. While the tomato’s origins are attributed to South America, over the centuries this tender and tempting food spread to Europe, Asia, and eventually to the U.S. in the 1700s, although its use as a safe food took much longer, if you believe the legend noted above. Think of the ways tomatoes are used today: juice, ketchup, sauce over pasta, in salsa, in salads, in soups and stews, and just eaten sliced with a sprinkle of salt.

However, if you adhere to a Macrobiotic* diet, tomatoes are taboo, as are other species of the nightshade family: white potatoes, eggplant, and (chili) peppers. Tobacco is also a nightshade and one source notes that tomatoes contain trace elements of nicotine that can re-trigger a nicotine addiction. Additionally, Norman Childers, Ph.D., author of Arthritis: A Diet to Stop It, has been advocating a nightshade-free diet to arthritis sufferers for more than 30 years. His belief, based on his own experience with these foods and arthritis, is that nightshades over-supply the body with Vitamin D, which causes or triggers problem related to the bones and tendons. If you are an arthritis sufferer, you may want to be tested by a doctor to see if you are nightshade sensitive and may be advised medically to limit or to avoid these foods as part of your regular diet.
(Source: www.tomatoesareevil.com).

Despite the above caveat about tomatoes, they continue to be popular in home gardens and with commercial farmers. (My husband plants two kinds of tomatoes every summer on our tiny patio.) Because tomatoes are often sprayed with pesticides and are generally eaten with their skins, I highly recommend purchasing organic tomatoes and organic tomato products, now readily available in health food stores and some supermarkets. One note: Tomatoes taste best when they are not refrigerated. Just use soon after they are purchased. (I got this tomato tidbit straight from the mouth of a Campbell Soup executive.)

Whether you enjoy the tiny grape or cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes (non-hybrid), regular-sized or beefsteak tomatoes; red, yellow, or green, tomatoes; raw or cooked tomaotes, they “jazz up” almost any recipe with very few calories. One 3-1/2 ounce tomato is less than 25 calories and 4-5% carbohydrates. However, I believe the tomato’s most valuable asset is the presence of lycopene,* a powerful antioxidant.* (See Health Flashes for Betty Kamen’s hint on lycopene.) Perhaps the tomato is popular because of the quote I found in The Complete Book of Fruits and Vegetables by Bianchini, Corbetta, Pistoia, a wonderful book in which the full-color illustrations are almost as good as the real thing! The authors note that: “The tomato is also easily digestible, and its bright color helps stimulate the appetite” (p. 90).
Other sources: www.wikipedia.or/wiki/tomato/ and

With that quote as a perfect segue, I offer a few recipes using fresh or sun-dried tomatoes in your late summer and early fall recipes, since this time of year seems to be the time I enjoy tomatoes the most. Once winter sets in, I give them up, because the hothouse or out-of-season tomatoes just don’t taste like the vine-ripened summer tomatoes.
*Click on Glossary for terms in bold italics. It can be found in the upper right hand corner on my Home Page.

Tomato Appetizer

Ingredients (No specified amounts)

Grape or cherry tomatoes
Pitted olives-green and/or black
Cubes of your favorite cheese(s)


Pierce tomatoes, olives and cheese with tiny skewers or large (fancy) toothpicks
Feel free to use more or less of whichever items you like best.
Serve with mustard on a platter garnished with sprouts.

Sliced Tomato Salad



One to two organic ripe tomatoes
One-half organic yellow onion
One organic cucumber
Feta cheese
Black or green olives (optional)
Olive oil
Herbs of choice: oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc.


1. Wash and slice tomatoes fairly thick. Peel and slice the onion. Peel and slice the cucumber
2. Crumble or cube the feta cheese+
3. Arrange the tomatoes, onion slices, and cucumber slices alternately on a round platter.
4. Add feta cheese and herbs of choice. Sprinkle on olive oil sparingly. Serve with extra oil and salt and pepper for those who wish more condiments.

Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing


2 oz. package of organic sun-dried tomatoes
one cup very hot water for soaking
one garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt & pepper to taste


1. Soak tomatoes in hot water for about 1/2 hour or until soft. Drain and save water.
2. Place rest of ingredients in blender with soaked and drained tomatoes.
3. Puree until smooth, adding soaking water to desired consistency. For a thinner sauce, add more water.
4. Use over steamed vegetables or rice. It should be thick, yet still able to be poured. Yield: approximately 1 1/4 cups.

Variation: Add a dash of hot pepper powder for more of a bite.



This is a chilled soup made with tomato juice and fresh veggies, almost like a chunky V-8. Feel free to add any other veggies that you like and that are in season. Be creative and make your own personal gazpacho. Side bowl is croutons made with tofu and tempeh salad (future blog recipe).


One half org. cucumber, peeled & chopped
2-3 chopped org. tomatoes
one lemon or lime, juiced
2 garlic cloves, peeled
one cup org. tomato or vegetable juice
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 tsp. pepper, kelp, or cayenne pepper
Toppings: (any or all)
1 small yellow summer squash, sliced
1/2 avocado, peeled and slivered
2 sliced spring onions (scallions)
slivered bell peppers or more cucumber


1. Puree 1/2 cucumber, tomatoes, garlic, and lemon juice in the blender.
2. Add one cup tomato juice and herbs and spices.
3. Garnish with parsley, slivers of avocado, and chunks of cucumber.
Yield: Approximately 2 1/2 cups

Note: If you go to the Archives for March and scroll down to March 16th, you will find my GuacaSalsa recipe, which also uses tomatoes.


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