(NaturalNews) Tomatoes have well-documented health benefits. The red pigment contained in tomatoes is called lycopene which acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that can damage cells in the body. Tomatoes also contain large amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and iron. Growing tomatoes at home is not difficult. Sun dried tomatoes and sauces are also simple and easy to make.
Choose a sunny spot and plant the tomato seeds in good, well-drained soil.
Space tomato seedlings 30 to 40 centimeters apart, in rows.
Do not over-water tomato seedlings. Irrigate the plants regularly and deeply once a week, so that the water will sink down into the soil to a depth of about half a meter.
When the tomato plants start growing, train them up a trellis. Support plants by trying them to a stake so they do not lie on the ground where they will get damaged and the fruit will rot.
Mediterranean Sun Dried Tomatoes
Not only are sun-dried tomatoes expensive to buy at the supermarket, but they are also generally laden with harmful preservatives. Sun-dried tomatoes are easy to make at home, although it takes time (around 20 days to dry). Roma or cherry tomatoes are best, although the bigger plum or beefsteak tomatoes can also be used. Use red, ripe tomatoes for the best results.
Small, ripe tomatoes Coarse sea salt Extra virgin, good quality olive oil Netting to keep insects and dust off the tomatoes
1. For every 3 kilograms of tomatoes, use 1 cup of salt.
2. Wash tomatoes and cut in half. Lay halves, cut side up, in a single layer on large trays and sprinkle liberally with coarse sea salt. Cover with netting, slightly raised so it does not lie on top of the tomatoes.
3. Place trays outdoors in direct sunlight for 20-22 days, until completely dried. Keep an eye on the weather and take the trays indoors at any sign of rain. Tomatoes can also be dried in an oven on a low heat until they are dehydrated.
4. Place sun-dried tomatoes in sterilized jars; fill with extra virgin olive oil to cover completely and seal.
Homemade Italian Style Tomato Sauce
2/3 tablespoons good quality olive oil 1 large onion, finely chopped 4 cloves garlic, crushed 1.5 kilograms red tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and chopped Sea salt and black pepper 3 tablespoons chopped basil leaves or parsley
1. Fry the onion in the oil until it is soft and pale in color. Stir in the garlic, then the tomatoes.
2. Season, cover and simmer for around an hour and a half. Stir in the herbs. Serve as is, or blend to form a smooth, thick sauce.
3. The sauce can also be reduced to create a thick, chunky consistency. The sauce freezes well, so a big batch can be prepared, divided into containers and frozen.
Fleur Hupston is a professional freelance writer. She is passionate about natural, healthy living and is currently studying to be a naturopath. She divides her time between writing for Natural News and various other sites, home schooling her children and studying part time.