It’s late in the growing season, but there still are a lot of tomatoes coming out of gardens, and there are good deals to be had if you buy them from the farmer’s market. You’ll want to stock up so that you can enjoy their many health benefits.
Apart from being low in calories, fat free, and full of fiber, tomatoes also are a good source of lycopene, a chemical that naturally occurs in red colored fruits and vegetables. Lycopene is one of the family of pigments found in food that are considered to be anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants can protect your cells from toxins, helping to slow down aging and other age-related diseases. There are also promising studies that show lycopene may have anti-cancerous effects.
An interesting side note about tomatoes and lycopene is that cooked tomatoes tend to be a better way to get lycopene. When tomatoes are cooked, the cell wall is broken down and more lycopene is available for your body to absorb. Lycopene is also fat-soluble, so consuming cooked tomatoes with a little bit of fat, like olive oil, makes it easier for your body to absorb it.
This soup is a delicious way to get your lycopene. It can be made with fresh, frozen, or canned tomatoes, so it can be enjoyed year-round.
Tomato Basil Soup
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
2-4 cloves fresh garlic – minced
8 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (you can substitute frozen or canned tomatoes)*
Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
½ - ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper (or to taste)
Heat a large sauce-pan or pot over medium heat. Add chopped onions and stir. Cook onions until they are soft and start to turn golden. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes until garlic is fragrant and softened. Be careful not to burn it. Add tomatoes and stir.
Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5-10 minutes until tomatoes are broken down. Remove from heat and add basil, salt, and pepper. Blend soup using an immersion blender or in traditional blender until smooth. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 5 days
Here’s an easy way to freeze those fresh tomatoes. Wash your tomatoes and use a paring knife to remove the core from the stem end. Place tomatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze. Transfer to a Ziploc bag and keep in the freezer until needed.
• Sherry DeWalt is the healthy lifestyles coordinator for the CGH Health Foundation in Sterling.