Big, fat and tasty tomatoes, that’s what we’re talking this week. Forget canned convenience ones packed and picked somewhere foreign and preserved with salt and sugar. You have no excuse not to buy a kilo or so of the fresh, ripe summer tomatoes available in Fethiye markets at the moment.
Although we can get tomatoes year round, the summer tomatoes are the best. Those familiar with Turkey will know that the humble tomato is a staple of Turkish diet and cuisine. Pretty much any family dinner will feature tomatoes in one form or another. They’re grated, pasted and cooked into a sauces for ‘guvec’ (stews), grilled on the BBQ and served with meat, or chopped, salted and drizzled with a little olive oil as a salad or for breakfast. The Fethiye region grows an abundance of tomatoes. Head out towards Kalkan and Kas and you will pass the numerous glass houses brimming with tomatos. Areas like Kumluova, Kumluca, Karadere have large harvests, and nearby Karaculha also holds a tomato festival in their honour each May.
So what are the health benefits of tomatoes?
Tomatoes are seen as far more than simply a fruit or vegetable providing basic nutrition. They are known as a ‘functional super food’. One that is nutrient rich and can be incorporated into our diet in many ways helping prevent chronic diseases as well as regulate glucose levels.
According to Medical News Today, a medium tomato provides around 22 calories, 5 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of fiber and zero fat. They contain high levels of vitamins A, C and folic acid. There is evidence suggesting tomatoes are good for diabetics due to the alpha-lipoic acid. This helps the body turn glucose into energy. Tomatoes also get their red colour from their lycopene content, a powerful antioxidant. Their choline content helps promote sleep, muscle movement, memory and learning, some studies have also shown tomatoes help the absorption of fat so are good for those with weight issues.
How to incorporate tomatoes into your diet:
You can get many different varieties of tomatoes around Fethiye; cherry, grape, plum and big, juicy summer tomatoes. There are loads of ways to incorporate fresh tomatoes into your diet:
- Add to sandwices and burgers. A slice of summer tomato on your sandwiches or burgers is the ideal, healthy topper.
- Make tomato salad – roughly dice and sprinkle with salt, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic and top off with a little chopped basil
- Make a quick salsa to go with your BBQ – dice tomatoes, onion, coriander, a chilli and squeeze some lemon or lime over them
- Make Bruschetta – toast some bread, rub toast with a clove of garlic, drizzle with olive oil then top with diced, lightly salted tomatoes and onions with a few torn basil leaves. (You could even add a few chopped black olives if you fancy)
- Dip cherry tomatoes in some meze for lunch – hummus and haydari (yogurt dip) are a great combination!
- Buy in bulk and make tomato paste (salca) for use later on. The Turks use salca (tomato paste) as the basis of most sauces. Housewives will make there own and store it in jars or freeze it for use throughout the year. My mother in law’s way is to buy a few kilos of the ripe summer tomatoes, peel them, discard the seeds, chop into chunks and heat with a little olive oil over a medium low flame until soft. Add around a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to every 5 or so tomatoes. Heat your oven to around 160 C and once the tomatoes are juicy and soft, blend with a hand blender then spread across a couple of baking sheets and pop in the oven. Keep and eye on them and stir every so often to avoid burning and so they reduce evenly. The juice will start to evaporate and when the tomatoes no longer cover the base of both sheets, combine to one and carry on reducing (2 or 3 hours) until there is no more juice and they are a dark, brick red colour. Allow to cool and store in jars with a good glug of olive oil on the top to preserve them.
ACILI EZME (TURKISH SPICY TOMATO DIP)
One of the most popular Turkish mezes is Ezme, a gloriously spicy dip that ‘s great served simply with bread or served as a side at BBQ’s or with grilled meat. Here is another of my Turkish mother in laws recipes…and very tasty it is too;
Half a red onion, or normal onion chopped very finely
1 Teaspoon Sumak (Turkish spice)
2 or 3 Ripe Summer Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and very finely diced
Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 Teaspoon Nar Syrup (Pomegranate sauce brought in most Turkish supermarkets)
1/2 – 1 Chili, very finely diced (add more or less depending on your taste)
Juice of one lemon
Salt to taste
Crush the onion, sumak with some salt either in a pestle and mortar or with the back of a fork. Add all other ingredients, mix well, cover and place in fridge for at least an hour to let the flavours blend. Pull out when needed and transfer to a serving dish. Enjoy!
Well we hope you are now motivated to get out there and buy up a load of lovely tomatoes! Let us know if you have any other easy tomato recipes by leaving a comment below.
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