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Published on August 10, 2016

Farmers Market Fresh Item

Week 15: Tomatoes

Editor’s Note: CentraCare Clinic Obstetrician/Gynecologist David Kroska, MD, has been a physician in the St. Cloud Area for 35 years. Dr. Kroska was the 2015 recipient of the Caduceus Award and is the founder of the L.I.F.E. Program, a class that teaches participants how to lose weight and how to incorporate elements of a healthy lifestyle each and every day.

Dr. Kroska is also an organic farmer who has enjoyed growing a variety of plants for decades. For this week’s Farmers Market feature, we’re going straight to the expert to detail his thoughts about growing one of his favorite plants.

Insights From an Expert in His Field(s)

TomatoesYou say tomato, I say tomatah. Either way it’s good news when those delectable first ripe fruits arrive. When it comes to flavor, vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes usually top the list.

So what’s all the fuss about heirloom tomatoes? In a word, TASTE. What 30-plus years of growing hundreds upon hundreds of heirloom (and hybrid) tomatoes has taught us is:

  1. The notion that one “must grow hybrids” is mostly hype.
  2. The notion that heirlooms are less productive is categorically not true.
  3. Heirloom tomatoes add a flavor and taste that hybrids have tried to capture, but still fall short.

Tomato season begins with the first ripe fruits in July and extends up to when in freezes in October. Salads, sandwich slices, snacking as well as canning are some of the many different purposes and joys of growing home-grown tomatoes. The type of tomato to grow or buy depends on what is its purpose.

  • If one’s goal is to process the harvest into canned tomatoes or spaghetti sauce, then growing so-called paste tomatoes like Roma, San Marzano, or Polish Linguisa are best. These varieties have higher content of solids and cook down to sauce beautifully.
  • For just enjoyable eating, hands down the most flavorful tomatoes are cherry tomatoes, (even though the bragging glory is usually taken by beefsteaks). When it comes to cherry tomatoes, nothing tops Sunsugar for taste. At our home, most never make it back to the kitchen as they are so yummy they tend to get eaten right off the vine.

"There's only two things that money can't buy. That's true love and home grown tomatoes."
- Guy Clark

Each year, our family hosts a dinner where more than 50 varieties of tomatoes, both old and new are put to a taste test. This past year’s winners included Aunt Gertie’s Gold, Fred Limbaugh, Stump of the World, Pink Princess and Sungreen. But the top award went to Sunsugar—as usual.

In addition to their diverse culinary applications, tomatoes are actually quite healthy. They supply a number of vitamins and minerals in addition to lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant which may help protect one from certain cancers such as skin or prostate and has been shown to correlate with less risk of stroke and heart disease.

No matter how you slice it, tomatoes have earned their well-deserved place of honor as America’s number one garden vegetable.


Fresh Tomato Soup

Fresh Tomato Marinara Sauce

Herbed Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Baked Parmesan Tomatoes

Fresh Food Links:

MFMA: Find a Farmers' Market Near You

Minnesota Grown

University of Minnesota Extension: Growing Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplant in Minnesota Home Gardens

About the Author

Dr. David Kroska

David A. Kroska, MD
CentraCare Clinic – Health Plaza Obstetrics & Women's Health
Learn more about Dr. Kroska

Farmers Market at CentraCare Health — Paynesville

The final Farmers Market of the year at CentraCare Health—Paynesville will be on October 27th from 11 am to 1 pm.

Thanks to everyone who has made it out this year!