Tomatoes are abundant this time of year and you have many options to buy local and fresh. Tomatoes are one of the most popular home garden vegetables to grow and are currently providing home gardeners with fresh ripe bounty until summer's end.

Our local farmer’s markets are also selling homegrown tomatoes, and in many colors like deep red, bright yellow and green. Our climate is great for growing tomatoes. Florida is the nation’s largest producer of fresh tomatoes.

Nutritionally, tomatoes are packed with vitamins C and A. The vegetable is low in calories and high in flavor. They are great served sliced and also in cooked dishes.

Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature away from direct sunlight. Ripe tomatoes should be used within three to four days. For best flavor, do not refrigerate. Ripe tomatoes will give slightly to gentle pressure.

To preserve the summer’s bounty, try canning. Remember to use U.S. Department of Agriculture-recommended practices for safety and long-term quality. Go to http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usda/GUIDE03_HomeCan_rev0715.pdf for a complete listing of how to safely can tomato products.

Here is a recipe for a low-fat, low-sodium salsa recipe packed with flavor and essential nutrients. Adjust the salt and oil to your taste and diet.

Farm Fresh Salsa

Ingredients:

 


6 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ seeded and minced jalapenos
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lime, juiced
chili powder, salt and pepper, to taste
scallions, cilantro or parsley, to taste

 

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Place in refrigerator for up to 12 hours for flavor infusion. Serve with your own baked chips.

 

Baked Tortilla Chips

 


1 package medium or large tortillas
cooking spray
salt to taste

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut tortillas into 8 – 12 pieces using a pizza cutter and a cutting board.

Place aluminum foil on 2 or 3 baking sheets. Place tortilla pieces in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Lightly coat tortillas with cooking spray on both sides. Sprinkle tortilla pieces with salt to taste, or eliminate salt for dietary needs.

Place in oven and cook 10-15 minutes until crisp. 

Pamela H. Allen is the interim county director and an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Crestview.