Conscious Cook: August tomatoes are perfect for summer salads

“Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes/ What would life be like without homegrown tomatoes/ Only two things that money can’t buy/ That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.” — John Denver

Sweltering heat and blazing sunshine turn the tomatoes of August hot, ripe and ready. Juicy, brilliantly colored tomatoes could be eaten every single night for the rest of summer with no complaint from me. Whether it be fat slices laid on sourdough bread with a bit of mayonnaise, a sprinkling of salt, and a steady grind of black pepper, whirred in a blender with cucumber, onion, hot pepper and herbs for zesty gazpacho, chopped and mixed with vivid yellow corn kernels, bright green jalapeno pepper, creamy cubes of avocado and a spritzing of lime juice, one hot tomato is one spectacular summer ingredient.

Farm markets are my favorite place to shop for local August tomatoes. Here you may find a gorgeous selection of deeply flavored heirloom varieties. Pale, pinky red Brandywine, cheerful orange Sungolds, dark Cherokee Purples, and a jumble of saffron yellow, fire engine red, and khaki green cherry tomatoes all await their place on the August table.

During these days of COVID-19, the touch method of tomato selection is not allowed at most markets. Know that pretty much any summer tomato will lend magnificence to your meals. Cracked, split tomatoes can be juiced or made into sauce or salsa. Soft spots or bruising can be cut away, leaving plenty of flesh to work with. Under-ripe specimens will usually soften nicely after a few days on your countertop. Storing fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator typically depletes their flavor, so leave them on the counter and do not wash them until ready to use.

Tomatoes are such an incredibly versatile ingredient for any meal, whether added to frittatas, sandwiched with crisp bacon and cool lettuce, minced and mingled with garlic, basil and olive oil and presented on garlic rubbed toasts, stuffed into chicken breasts and grilled with pesto and mozzarella cheese, chopped and mixed with cooked pasta, torn basil and olive oil, the opportunity for kitchen creativity never ends when fresh tomatoes are in season!

Tomatoes are a potent source of lycopene. Lycopene is not only responsible for their vibrant color,but may be influential in reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Tomatoes supply fiber, essential for proper elimination and digestive health, as well as copious amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C can assist in the production of collagen, which can help skin maintain elasticity and retain a lovely complexion. Super hydrating, eating tomatoes is an excellent way to refresh the body during scorching summer days.

Enjoy the days of hot, garden fresh tomatoes as you prepare a delicious life!

One Hot Tomato Salad

2-3 washed, chopped tomatoes (any variety and color you like)

2 cups cooked corn kernels

1 nicely ripe avocado, washed, peeled and cut into cubes

1 finely minced garlic clove

Small handful of finely minced chives

Juice of 1 small lime

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 small hot cherry pepper, seeded and minced (optional) substitute any hot pepper of choice.

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Place the first 10 ingredients in a big bowl. Stir gently until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust as desired.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook,” writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England. She is a professional cook, organic gardener and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers College.