There’s a tiny little green market on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that I enjoy going to on Saturdays. Actually, it’s held behind an elementary school on the blacktop intended for playing hoops and jumping rope. Modest as the market might be, the farmers sell the most unbelievable tomatoes I’ve ever tasted, and I always leave with a bushel.
My friend Lauren on the other hand, doesn’t have to go farther than her back yard garden to find juicy, tasty tomatoes. She lives in upstate New York and grows them with apparent ease despite drought, blight, flooding and infestation. She can coax them into heart shapes (like the one shown here which she just picked) and harvests bushels when neighbors yield none. Clearly, she’s blessed with a green thumb.
While tomatoes are versatile in the kitchen, they’re also a nutritional powerhouse, and rich in lycopene which stands out as a potent weapon against cancer. Being one of the carotenoid phytochemicals (related to beta-carotene), lycopene appears to protect our cells’ DNA with its strong antioxidant power. Lycopene has also shown the ability to stimulate enzymes that deactivate carcinogens.
So, how do I enjoy my bushel of tomatoes? Very, very simply. I’ll cut a few tomatoes into chunks, coarsely chop a handful of fresh basil and mix the two ingredients together. I’ll toss in some black olives (I like the marinated, bitter variety.), then dress the salad with a bit of oil and balsamic vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. That’s it. I enjoy that savory vegan salad with toasted artisan bread smeared with a bit of roasted garlic and wash everything down with a small glass of white wine. It’s heaven. I promise.