ingredient information
Tomatoes Sun Dried
Currently, tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables eaten by Americans. Tomatoes are members of the fruit family, but they are served and prepared as a vegetable. This is why most people consider them a vegetable and not a fruit. They are high in vitamin C and also provide beta-carotene. The National Cancer Institute published a study that showed an association between consuming a diet rich in tomato-based foods and a decreased risk of prostate cancer. Tomatoes contain large amounts of an antioxidant called lycopene, which may be responsible for this possible positive effect. Tomato paste and sauces contain a greater amount of lycopene, because they are more concentrated than fresh tomatoes. Lycopene is a bright red carotenoid pigment (phytochemical) found in tomatoes and other red fruits. Lycopene is the most common carotenoid in the human body and is one of the most potent carotenoid antioxidants. Its name is derived from the tomato's species classification, Solanum lycopersicum. Ironically, the highest natural concentrations of lycopene in food are found not in tomatoes, but in watermelon. Almost all dietary lycopene comes from tomato products, however. Recent research has indicated that lycopene, a carotenoid with potent antioxidant effects which is found in raw tomatoes, may be responsible for the protection against cancers. This is possibly the reason why people living in the Mediterranean who eat lots of tomatoes have a lower rate of some cancers. I use a technique for making sun-dried tomatoes from the wonderful food preserving guide Stocking Up III (Rodale Press, 1986). Start with plum (Roma) tomatoes from your garden or farmer's market. They are the meatiest of tomatoes and carry less water. Cut them in half lengthwise, and carefully place the halves skin side down on a framed nylon or plastic screen. Be careful to preserve the liquid from inside the tomato -- the drying process will concentrate powerful flavor in the juice. Put a cheesecloth cover over the screen to protect the tomatoes from dirt and insects. Raise the cheesecloth off the tomatoes slightly with bamboo skewers. Then place the screen outside in the sun. Count on a few days of drying and be sure to bring the tomato screens indoors overnight, once the sun goes down. Alternatively, you can dry plum tomato halves in an electric food dryer set at 120 degrees F for 24 hours. Drying tomatoes in a conventional oven is trickier. You must maintain a low heat of 120 degrees F consistently for 24 hours. This is quite difficult, and I do not recommend it. Store sun-dried tomatoes dry, in sterilized glass jars with tight fitting lids. Do not store them in olive oil. When you want to use the dried tomatoes, pour a mixture of equal parts of vinegar and boiling water over them. Then let them sit for five minutes, or until they soften to a chewy consistency. Drain and cover with olive oil, seasoned with a few slivers of garlic clove. Let them marinate 24 hours in the refrigerator before sampling. You can store them in this oil, refrigerated, for two to three weeks. Use these dried tomatoes with pasta, soups, salads and antipastos. Source: