They're a little bit soft, always plump, a great summer snack, and packed with heart-healthy antioxidants. They're tomatoes.
This summer, Kitchen Gardens International's "Food Independence Day
" campaign aims at getting all United States' governors to sign a petition that states they will use locally grown food for their July 4th meals, according to the group's website
. As someone who loves to eat and enjoys one of the great summer holidays as well, I decided to share my favorite local food.
For as long as I could remember, someone in my family always had a tomato garden. My grandpa's garden was located on the side of his house. My family's tomato patch was located in a small garden in our backyard. Wherever the location, I was always eating fresh and juicy tomatoes as a young girl. Today my dad keeps the tradition going, and even though our tomatoes don't usually ripen until late July or early August, I always have plenty to take back to school with me.
While I wait for my own tomato garden to bloom, I like to check out what local farmers have to offer. Less than a mile away from my home is a great local farm, Norton Farm, which carries a variety of fruits and vegetables and has an area where some of their smaller farm animals can be visited. In the fall, Norton's is one of the best places to buy local pumpkins and partake in festive October activities. Besides Norton, there are numerous farmers markets that are located just minutes away from my home, making them great local food locations. St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia -- all of Chicago's major western suburbs
have their own local farmers market.
The St. Charles Farmers Market, held at the historic Baker Memorial Church on Fridays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., has a variety of eats and treats that are sure to make any dish better this Fourth of July. This farmers market, which is open from June 6 to Oct. 31, also carries fresh flowers and unique pieces of jewelry and artwork from community members. But among all the flowers and produce is my favorite summertime snack -- the tomato.
There are several types of tomatoes that can be found at any local farmers market, and all of them are packed with lycopene. Heirloom tomatoes are preferred for small backyard tomato gardens, while beefsteak tomatoes are much larger and oval shaped, which makes them perfect for sandwiches. Plum tomatoes are used for sauces, and cherry tomatoes are perfect for salads or just to be eaten on their own, according to Wikipedia's tomato page
. My dad loves to grow cherry and heirloom tomatoes in our backyard because they are easy to grow and a delicious touch to any dish.
This Fourth of July, take the pledge along with your governor and prepare a local and sustainable meal. My favorite tomato dish is simple, which is great when you're trying to make food for the entire family. Take a few large tomatoes (heirloom or beefsteak) and slice them open so they lay flat on a plate. Top with a little Italian dressing and dill salt, and enjoy this tangy and sweet summer treat. The best thing about your locally grown and sustainable meal this Fourth -- no preservatives, pesticides or harmful chemicals -- just yummy, local goodness.
Photos: Muffet/Flickr and Manjith Kainickara/Flickr