There is a popular saying “knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad”! Tomatoes are a great source of dietary fibre, vitamin C, folate and the antioxidant lycopene, which has been researched for its role in cancer prevention and heart health. Cooked tomatoes contain higher levels of lycopene as heating helps to release beneficial chemicals.
You will find tomatoes are available year round, however they are cheapest and freshest in spring and summer. Keep picked tomatoes at room temperature until bright red and ripe and then store in the fridge until consumed. Tomatoes contain natural sugars, giving them a sweet burst of flavour. If you are choosing a bottle of tomato pasta sauce, look at the ingredients list to distinguish whether sugar on the nutrition panel is added or natural from the tomatoes to reduce your littlies intake of added sugars.
Tomato is one of the easiest plants to grow, with the only requirements being good soil, a sunny spot and lots of water. You can buy a ‘ready to plant’ tomato bush or just plant some seeds straight from a fresh tomato.
Homemade pasta sauce is a favourite amongst little ones. Making your own, particularly for babies is a great way to avoid any added sugar and salt. Do so by roasting some halved tomatoes in olive oil with a clove of garlic until soft and easily squashed and blending or mashing into a sauce. Adding some cooked minced beef will also help to provide essential iron to help bubs cognitive development. Add chopped tomatoes to scrambled eggs to add vitamins and fibre for a quick and balanced meal for your baby.
For a quick and easy snack, thread a basil leaf, cherry tomato and a bocconcini ball onto a skewer or Paddlepop stick or cook up cheesy savoury muffins or pancakes with added chopped tomatoes and grated zucchini for a freezer friendly breakfast. A tomato stuffed with rice or couscous and mild spices makes a great side dish for dinner or add some cooked chicken or mince for a wholesome meal. Try a naked parmigiana by topping chicken breast with tomato slices and cheese and baking until chicken is cooked through and cheese is golden.
Make homemade sundried tomatoes by cooking cherry tomatoes on a low heat for a few hours or in a food dehydrator for a yummy addition to pizzas or in wraps with leftover roast meat. Pop cherry tomatoes into the lunchbox with some cheese cubes for a snack or make a quick salad using a variety of coloured tomatoes, some torn up and toasted sourdough bread and a lemon and olive oil vinaigrette. Adding some halved tomatoes to your next barbeque is a great way to add an extra vegetable to your little one’s dinner.