Cami Wells: Tasty tomatoes

Found in gardens across the country, from heirloom varieties to bite-sized cherry tomatoes, this kitchen staple makes a great addition to many dishes.

The tomato offers a bright flavor and can be eaten raw, cooked and made into sauces.

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Tomatoes are known for their high lycopene content, which gives them their red color. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that has been linked to reducing the risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease. The coloring is better absorbed if the tomatoes are cooked or canned and contain some fat. In the US, most lycopene intake comes from spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, tomato juice, and ketchup. Watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit are other sources of lycopene.

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Cami Wells

Cami Wells

Tomatoes are high in health-promoting nutrients, including fiber and vitamins C and A. A medium-sized tomato contains about 25 calories, 20 mg of sodium, and is a good source of potassium.

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When choosing tomatoes, look for the reddest, ripest tomatoes and look for bruises and blemishes. Tomatoes are “fruits” of the plant in the botanical world, but are considered a vegetable by most in the field of nutrition because of the way they are used on the menu.

Handle tomatoes with care to avoid bruising. Store tomatoes at room temperature away from dust and sunlight. Only refrigerate if overripe. If you have a green tomato, you can ripen it by storing it in a paper bag with the lid folded up, at room temperature and out of sunlight. Check daily and use when ripe.

Lettuce Wraps

Skip the bun but keep the flavor with these Cheeseburger Lettuce Wraps.


Cheeseburger Lettuce Wraps

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat Thousand Island salad dressing (optional; see note)
  • 8 leaves of bibb or romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill pickles

Clean onion lettuce leaves and tomatoes by rubbing gently under cold running water. Dice onion and tomato

In a large skillet, cook the beef and onion over medium-high heat until meat is browned and reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F on a food thermometer. drain fat.

Add garlic, salt and pepper (if using) and cook for 1 minute. Remove from stove. Stir in the salad dressing.

Place lettuce leaves on a plate or serving platter. Place meat mixture in lettuce leaves. Top with tomatoes, cheese and cucumber.

Store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Note: Your favorite seasoning can be used in place of the Thousand Island Dressing.

Nutritional information per serving (1/8 of recipe): Calories 150, Total Fat 8g, Saturated Fat 3.5g, Cholesterol 55mg, Sodium 310mg, Total Carbohydrates 2g, Fiber 1g, Total Sugars 2g, Contains 0g added sugar, protein 16 g.

Cami Wells is the Extension Educator for Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact Cami by phone at 308-385-5088, email at [email protected], or visit Hall County’s website at

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