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Aileen McAinsh is currently a dietetic intern at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and has lived in Nashville since 1998. She is originally from Scotland and studied at the University of Glasgow and the University of London.

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H ealthy Table*

Redefining the Tomato: Can You Accept That?
By Aileen McAinsh

I n Tennessee, from June to October, local farms produce tomatoes at their best. It is the aroma of fresh, ripe tomatoes that transports me back to my childhood. I grew up in Scotland and spent summers helping my grandfather in the garden. He was an expert at growing tomatoes, and my grandmother would encourage me to eat them by sprinkling sugar on top. But why sugar? Did she think a tomato was a fruit, dessert worthy?—or is it a vegetable?

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* In Tennessee, local farms produce tomatoes at their best. It is the aroma of fresh, ripe tomatoes that transports me back to my childhood...

Scientifically speaking, tomatoes are fruits, but because they are usually cooked in savory dishes, they have become accepted as vegetables; in fact, in the 19th century, they were ruled to be vegetables by the U.S. Supreme Court. It might seem strange that the courts got involved with this. However, as is often the case, money was the issue. At that time, vegetables (but not fruits) were subject to a 10% import tax. Although fruit importers argued that tomatoes were indeed fruits, it was in the interest of the government to call a tomato a vegetable and collect the taxes. Thus, the tomato is now in the vegetable group. This should not affect your decision about how to prepare this versatile food. In addition to such traditions as eating tomatoes raw in salads, cooked into tomato sauce, or grilled, they can also be used to sweeten up your life.

The United States Department of Agriculture considers a medium tomato to be an ample source of potassium, iron, and phosphorus. It has only 22 calories and provides as much as 10–20% of the vitamin A and 20% of the vitamin C required per day.1 Tomatoes also contain a substance called lycopene, which acts as an antioxidant and reduces the risk of cancer.2 Choosing this food is not only good for your health, but great for your wallet—tomatoes were cited in a recent study as one of the top “vegetables” to provide the highest nutrient density per unit cost.3 This study used a Nutrient Rich Foods index based on nine nutrients to encourage and three nutrients to limit in the diet. Even processed tomato soups and juices were shown to provide a benefit. This summer, whether you crave savory or sweet, don’t be prejudiced about the tomato; accept it as a fruit and a vegetable!

Tomato As a Fruit:
Sweet Tomato and Peach Cobbler
(adapted from: http://inpatskitchen.blogspot.com/2013/07/sweet-tomato-and-peach-cobbler.html)

Makes 10 servings
Ingredients
For the tomatoes and peaches:
8 large plum tomatoes
6 large yellow peaches
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp., plus 1 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

For the biscuit topping:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. granulated sugar, plus 1 extra tbsp. for sprinkling
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cups buttermilk (1% milkfat)

Directions
1. Peel the skin off the tomatoes and peaches.
2. Halve the tomatoes lengthwise and scoop out the core and seeds with a small spoon. Slice each half in half again and set the slices on paper towel to drain.
3. Spread the butter in a large sauté pan and sprinkle with the sugar. Add the tomatoes in one layer and cook over medium heat for 20–30 minutes until the syrup created becomes amber in color.
4. Slice the peaches into wedges about 1/3-inch thick and add them to the pan of tomatoes.
5. Combine the cornstarch, cinnamon, and cayenne and gently stir into the mixture. Transfer the mixture to a 9x13-inch baking pan.
6. Pre-heat oven to 400°F. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, 3 tbsp. sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.
7. Cut the butter into small pieces and, with a fork, work the butter into the flour mixture until crumbly. Pour in the buttermilk and combine with a fork until everything comes together.
8. Drop spoonfuls of the batter over the top of the tomato-peach mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and bake for 30–40 minutes until the top browns a bit and the fruit gets bubbly. Let rest about 20 minutes before serving.
Nutrition Information: 264 calories, 9g fat, 44g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 5g protein, 75mg sodium, 204mg potassium

Tomato As a Vegetable:
Gazpacho from The Whiffletree Restaurant in Ann Arbor
(Adapted from original source: http://www.tastebook.com/recipes/1827772-Gazpacho?full_recipe=true)

Makes 12 servings
Ingredients
2 tbsp. onion, chopped fine
1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped fine
1/2 medium green pepper, seeded and chopped fine
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup wine vinegar
Juice of one lemon (or 2 1/2 to 3 tbsp.)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 cup diced black olives
1 16-oz. can no-salt-added, whole tomatoes, undrained
1 small fresh tomato, diced
1 46-oz. can no-salt added tomato juice, chilled
1 cucumber, cut into 12 spears
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 12 pieces
1 cup seasoned croutons
1 cup fat-free sour cream

Directions
1. Place onion, cucumber, green pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, olive oil, wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt, cumin, black olives, and canned tomatoes in blender or food processor and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds.
2. Refrigerate one hour to blend flavors.
3. Add diced fresh tomatoes and tomato juice.
4. Garnish each serving with a spear of cucumber, slice of avocado, croutons, and sour cream.

Nutrition Information: 188 calories, 11g fat, 14g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 5g protein, 376mg sodium, 584mg potassium
References: 1. https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/foodapedia 2. Drewnowski, A. “New metrics of affordable nutrition: which vegetables provide most nutrients for least cost?” Top of Form Bottom of Form J Acad Nutr Dietetics. 2013; 113(9):1182–1187. 3. Viuda-Martos, M., Sanchez-Zapata, E., Sayas-Barberá, E., Sendra, E., Pérez-Álvarez, J.A., and Fernández-López, J. “Tomato and tomato byproducts. Human health benefits of lycopene and its application to meat products: a review.” Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014; 54(8):1032–1049. *