You probably already know that fresh, home-grown tomatoes are good for you, but you may not know just how good!
The latest news is that a research team from the University of Eastern Finland, reports that eating tomatoes is associated with a 50% lower risk of stroke, due in large part to high concentrations of the potent antioxidant, lycopene.
Lycopene is a well studied compound that gives tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables their deep red color. Did you know that lycopene needs to be combined with fat to be absorbed well through the intestinal wall?
Science Daily says: “The researchers found that tomatoes are the top source of dietary lycopene; a powerful antioxidant that, unlike nutrients in most fresh fruits and vegetables, has even greater bio-availability after cooking and processing.”
6 Main Tomato Health Benefits
Tomatoes also contain other protective mechanisms to lower the risk of:
- cardiovascular disease and stroke
- ultraviolet light-induced skin damage
- cognitive dysfunction such as in dementia and Alzheimer’s
- deep vein thrombosis
By growing several of your own tomato plants (in containers, a raised bed, or in the ground), you can save money on your grocery bill and have all the tomatoes you will want for the summer.
If you add a few more plants, you will likely have enough to put up pasta and sauce with as well as put some in the freezer for winter soups.
There is an old-time practice that some feel makes tomatoes perform even better.
Tomato Companion Planting:
Companion planting is part folklore and part science. Grouping companionable plants together in the garden is supposed to enhance their flavor, their growth, and give added protection to plants from pests and diseases as they give off the natural chemical compounds they contain.
This is a neat little chart I found at Small Farm Permaculture and Sustainable Living, and it is explained further here.
Plants that share the same circle get along well together, either as mutually beneficial companions, or neutral neighbors. Those that do not share the same circle should not be grown together, they say.
Borage & Tomato
Borage improves the productivity and taste of tomatoes, plus its flowers attract parasitic wasps while some say it repels the tomato hornworm. I have planted borage every year at the base of our tomatoes, and it certainly hasn’t hurt them. We have had high yields all but one year during that time.
I grow borage for the leaves and flowers that have a fresh, cucumber-like flavor. Add the young leaves and blooms to salads, soups, and summer drinks. Borage self-seeds. I just turn the little starts I don’t want under as a green manure and allow the rest to continue growing.
Basil & Tomato
This is a famous pairing like in a Caprese salad. But there is also an affinity in the garden!
“Tomatoes make the basil grow like wild and basil adds a certain depth of quality to tomatoes.” Old-timers swear to it, and Italian dishes testify to it!
Lettuce & Spinach
Growing leaf lettuce (and other leafy greens) in the same raised bed as my tomatoes acts as a living mulch which helps keep the soil cooler, and reduces the chances of spreading diseases from water and soil splashing on the leaves. Lettuce thrives in the partial shade of the tall tomato plants. The lettuce stays cooler and sweeter longer, so both derive a benefit.
First, they are elegant and delicious in a salad, and second, they are gloriously old-fashioned in the kitchen garden. If they help the tomatoes, so much the better!
I am fascinated by Louise Riotte’s book Tomatoes Love Carrots. It really is an essential book if you are going to delve into the world of companion planting. Not only does it go through every vegetable and herb’s best and worst companions, but it also adds in tons of folklore, natural insect repellent and herbal health tips, just all sorts of great wisdom. I go into more depth on it here.
It has also been said to never plant tomatoes close to potatoes. I’m not going to try it to find out if that is true!
The Tomato is easy to grow organically
They do beautifully without chemicals, so why waste the money, time, or sacrifice your health. We have never sprayed and get huge crops every year.
- Don’t ever water the leaves of the plant, and you will not get much disease, if any.
- Also, if you chew or are a smoker, tobacco can give tomatoes the disease Tobacco Mosaic Virus.
- You may want to mark your tomatoes to remember which variety is which. Rocks markers work, kids love to make them, and they look cool!
Summertime Foods To Pair with Tomato
Some things are just meant to go together.
Remember I mentioned that lycopene needs to be combined with fat to be absorbed well through the intestinal wall?
Here is where you think good unsaturated fats: olive oil, avocados, nuts, and fish.
I do love fresh garden tomatoes drenched in olive oil with a pinch of sea salt. Hmm… Mozzarella and fresh basil only intensify the taste-bud delight of this Caprese dish.
The ‘cheese-toastie’ hot from the oven using your favorite melting cheese, fresh tomato slices, cracked pepper, and sea salt. It is simply amazing!
Also, I was raised in a decidedly Dutch background for the first dozen years of my life and my Dutch relatives love the pairing of tomatoes and scrambled eggs, especially on toast!
Tomato and avocado salad
It is seasoned perfectly with fresh lemon, olive oil, fresh cracked black pepper, and sea salt. Or try drizzling a honey-mustard dressing.
My other posts on tomatoes:
- Olivia’s Tomato Pie: A Savory, Cheesy Summertime Favorite
- The Totally Easy Way To Freeze Tomatoes
- Heirloom Tomatoes: Their Fascinating & Sometimes Funny Stories
“Grilled cheese and tomato soup is the ultimate comfort meal.” ~Ina Garten
Yes, I was just reading in my Trim Healthy Mama book that Lycopene is fat soluble and that cooked is better than raw.
I like the Carrots Love Tomatoes book, too 🙂
Yummy recipe ideas here!
Lovely post, Jacqueline. I say tomato most of the time, but I’ve been known to say mater after eating a whole plateful. 😉 They are lip-smackin’ good fresh from the garden. I. can’t. wait.
What a great post….there’s alot of little nuggets in here. I knew some of the companion planting but didn’t know about the lettuce and almost forgot about the basil! Thanks for the reminders 🙂
Thank you for your encouragement, Bethany 🙂
LOVE, love, love your posts! Thank you for so much Godly wisdom and guidance.
I am truly blessed by everything you write about!!
I had my son make the raised beds you designed and have many tomato’s ripening.
I can’t wait to try your recipes!
That is so cool! Carol, I am particularly pleased that you are working together with your son 🙂 May you be in tomato heaven this summer and put-up lots and lots of tomato paste and sauce or whatever you do. I hope it is an enriching experience for you both!! Blessings and a hug 🙂
Kendra @ AProverbs 31 Wife
Mom bought my green-thumb hubby that Carrots love Tomatoes book! When you have a small garden stuff like that is pretty helpful 🙂
Thanks for sharing at Matrimonial Monday!
Oh my do I love tomatoes! I have a few that are just turning red now! I will defiantly have to try adding the lettuce under my tomatoes! They are just high enough that I could put new seeds down! 🙂
A funny story about tomatoes. One year we canned so many tomatoes and we gave the skins to the chickens. The chickens thought thy were great. The funny thing is that the yolks turned orange to red color. We realized it was from the tomatoes. We figured we had some really healthy eggs to eat. We could not sell them but we enjoyed them ourselves.