Kids love tomatoes. Their bright-red color and sweet, juicy taste are very appealing. In her playful story about fussy eaters, I Will Never Not Ever Eat A Tomato, children's book author Lauren Child dubs them "moonsquirters."
When tomatoes are in season and in abundance, they taste so good that you can just slice them and serve them plain with a sprinkle of salt (and lots of napkins handy!). Cherry and grape tomatoes are also a natural. These mini-tomatoes may be small, but they have big flavor.
Kids also get a kick out of heirloom tomatoes, varieties that date back at least 50 years and tend to have quirky names and appearances. For starters, there are yellow Banana Legs, Green Zebras, orange Mr. Stripeys and red Boxcar Willies. All taste delicious. Your Farmer's Market is a great place for fresh tomatoes and other fine seasonal produce.
Rich, sun-drenched flavor isn't the only thing tomatoes have going for them. Tomatoes are also incredibly good for you.
Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A. They also contain fiber, potassium and iron. Tomatoes are full of health-promoting antioxidants like lycopene, which gives them their red color, and beta-carotene.
Choosing and Storing
Follow your nose. Tomatoes that smell good will taste good. Other than fragrance, look for rich-colored tomatoes that are firm but not rock-hard. Avoid tomatoes with any blemishes, wrinkles or cuts.
Store your tomatoes in a cool placepreferably not the refrigerator, because the cold saps the flavor and makes them taste mealy. It's best to use ripe tomatoes within a few days.
You can keep a bowl of washed and dried cherry or grape tomatoes on the table for easy, nutritious snacking.
How to Cook
With fresh tomatoes, you can take favorite kid dishes like salsa or tomato sauce to new heights. Offer a simple, fresh tomato sauce as a dip for dunking chunks of cheese, whole-wheat bread or cut-up veggies. Interestingly enough, cooked tomatoes contain five times as much lycopene as raw tomatoes, so don't worry about losing nutrients when cooking.
Famed L.A. chefs Mary Sue Miliken and Susan Feniger talk you through making an easy and delicious Salsa Fresca with the kids that the whole family will enjoy.