All you have to do is drive around my neighbourhood, and you’ll see most neighbours either have planters or gardens with numerous tomato plants. It seems to be the fruit of choice during this crazy pandemic. And yes, tomatoes are a fruit even though many nutritionists call them a vegetable.

“Tomatoes, like most fruit, are known to be high in nutrients. They possess vitamins like A, C, K and potassium. Tomatoes help with heart and immune function, vision maintenance, and digestive health. They’re also high in lycopene, which when paired with olive oil, is known to help keep your skin firm and youthful!” says Jenna French, Owner & Operator of Rustica Pizza Vino in Orillia.

Most of us are quite familiar with a variety of tomato dishes, recipes, and sauces. The most popular use for tomatoes since the pandemic began is preservation. There’s been a shortage of certain types of tomatoes such as Roma and San Marzano because of the pandemic.

“Many people enjoy preserving tomatoes, making chili sauce, and so on. There’s a big demand for tomatoes because there’s a short supply due to Covid-19 and labour shortages. People are really interested in preserving because of Covid-19,” says Morris Gervais, Owner of Barrie Hill Farms in Barrie.

So, how do you know what tomato to use for pastes or sauces? Gervais and French have a couple of suggestions for you.

“Roma is often used for pastes. When you cut open a field tomato, there’s more juice. The Romas and the San Marzanos are both types that have more flesh, so they don’t require as much time to boil down and are better for thicker sauces, so people like those for preserving,” suggests Gervais.

Other than popping a Sweet Sue or Cherry tomato into my mouth fresh off the vine, the dish I think of when I think tomatoes is pizza.

“Our favourite way to enjoy tomatoes is on pizza. Our pizza sauce is never cooked. It’s four simple ingredients: seeded and crushed tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh basil. We use several types of tomatoes throughout the year in the food we serve, but only one type to make our pizza and pasta sauce. They’re called San Marzano tomatoes. They have a stronger flavour and are a naturally sweeter and less acidic type of tomato that are grown only in a specific area of Italy,” informs French.

There are so many other ways to enjoy tomatoes such as in a salad, roasted on a shish kabob, spread on bruschetta bread, paired with bocconcini and olive oil, enjoyed as a salsa, or sipped as a juice, Caesar, or Bloody Mary cocktail.

My personal favourite is fresh off the vine, or roasted on a piece of baguette with bocconcini, olive oil, parsley, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

We can’t forget what French says about tomatoes keeping our skin firm and youthful. I interpret this as finding a little red, juicy, Fountain of Youth!

Cheers to tomatoes!

Rustica Pizza Vino

Barrie Hill Farms

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