Saturday, September 13, 2014

Summer Salsa (Pico de Gallo)

Summer Salsa (Pico de Gallo)
Healthy Benefits

Antioxidant Powerhouse. Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, Vitamin C and Vitamin A. They are antioxidants that are instrumental in neutralizing free radicals known to potentially damage cells, which can increase inflammation and the progression or severity of disease. Diets high in these antioxidants have been shown to help reduce the risk or severity of all of these illnesses. Lycopene, especially, helps protect cells from oxygen damage and heart disease.

Prostate, Colon and Pancreas. Although tomatoes are great cancer fighters in general, they are specifically known to promote prostate and colon health. Further, a study published in The Journal of Nutrition showed that those consuming a diet high in lycopene had a diminished risk for pancreatic cancer.

Fiber Factor. Tomatoes are a great source of fiber, which helps to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Ingredients   47 calories per 1 cup serving (makes 4 cups)
4 large organic tomatoes
1 onion chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbspn lime juice (1 lime)
jalapeño pepper, minced with seeds removed

Pulse the tomatoes in a blender to get a 'chunky' consistency. In medium-size bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice and jalapeño. Cover and chill for at least one hour to allow the flavors to blend.

Ethical Considerations 
1) Florida supplies an enormous portion of the USA's out-of-season fresh tomatoes, as well as slicing tomatoes used throughout the food service industry. These tomatoes are picked green, ripened en route, and arrive perfectly red and tasteless in our stores and restaurants during winter and spring. 

2) Because of the poor soil quality and warm climate in Florida, growers there use up to six times the pesticides and fungicides used on tomatoes grown in California (the USA's other primary tomato region). 

3) Worse, labor conditions for people picking our out-of-season tomatoes in Florida range from mediocre to deplorable. Safety standards are highly questionable--especially concerning pesticide use in close proximity to fieldworkers. Worse, in the past several years there have been documented cases of slavery among contract work crews hired by major Florida growers. Yes, that's right: slavery.

4) California growers, in general, have better labor practices and pesticide use practices. The problem is, California supplies the vast majority of North American canned tomatoes, not fresh/out-of-season tomatoes. Casual Kitchen readers should instantly see a possible solution here for their tomato needs: when tomatoes are out of season, stick to buying canned.

5) In other words, if you buy an out-of-season, fresh tomato, chances are it's from Florida. And that tomato was likely sprayed, grown and picked under suspect conditions. If you buy canned tomatoes, they were probably grown under better--and safer--conditions. 

Note to vegan chef
I don't add salt because I usually have it with salted multigrain chips. Pico de Gallo is the same recipe only chop the tomatoes instead of using the blender. 

Nutrition: (per 1 serving)

Fun facts
  • Although many people believe that tomatoes are vegetables, they are actually fruits.
  • Italian in Origin … not so much. Although popular as an ingredient in Italian cuisine, tomatoes are originally native to the western side of South America.  However, it was first cultivated in Mexico; and it was through Colombus that seeds were first introduced to Europe.
  • Every Color of the Rainbow. Tomatoes come in every color except for blue!  You can find them in red, orange, yellow, green and even purple!
  • Organic Matters. In tomatoes, research has shown that organic tomatoes and organic tomato products provide a much greater dose of lycopene than non-organic.