Time For Some Tomato Talk

It’s May, and that means that tomatoes are in season!

red tomatoes

To help you to get into the tomato gobbling mood, here are some health benefits, interesting facts, storage tips and mouth-watering recipes that will tempt even the most committed anti-tomato palettes.

Health Benefits

  • Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that aids in protecting against cancer, cardiovascular disease, and cell damage.
  • A 3.5 oz. red tomato only contains about 18 calories but it also provides dietary fiber, potassium, protein, and vitamins A, C, and E.

Little Known Facts

  • Though closely linked to Italian cuisine, tomatoes are actually native to the western side of South America, coming from countries such as Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru.
  • Tomatoes are thought to be first cultivated in Southern Mexico by the Aztecs. The exact date of domestication is unknown.
  • In the 1500’s Spanish explorers brought tomato seeds from Mexico back to Spain thus introducing them to the European populations.
  • Botanically speaking, tomatoes are a fruit as they have seeds and grow from a flowering plant.
  • For cooking purposes and per the 1887 U.S. tariff laws, tomatoes are classified as vegetables.
  • They are a member of the nightshade family. Because of this classification, it took some time for the tomatoes popularity to grow as many people feared they were poisonous. This isn’t really a far-fetched idea, because even though the fruit itself is safe to eat, eating the stems, leaves, and vines could be harmful.
  • China is the world’s largest producer of tomatoes, providing more than a quarter of the tomatoes grown worldwide. The United States and India come in second and third.
  • There are over 7,000 varieties of tomato, the most popular are beefsteak, cherry, plum, and grape.
  • If you place a ripe banana next to a green tomato, the tomato will ripen due to the ethylene gas produced by the banana.
  • Pretty much all tomato varieties are red, however there are also other colors, including black, green, orange, pink, purple, and yellow.

Selection and Storage

  • Choose tomatoes that are rich in color, and well-shaped with smooth skin and no wrinkles or cracks.
  • There should be no bruising or soft spots.
  • Choose the ones that do not have a puffy appearance as that indicates they may have inferior flavor.
  • A ripe tomato will have a slight pressure to the touch and have a distinctly sweet fragrance.
  • Tomatoes are susceptible to cold so they should be stored at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.
  • Depending on how ripe they are when purchased, tomatoes will keep for up to a week.
  • If you notice your tomatoes becoming overripe before you are ready to eat them, you can them place them in the refrigerator where they will keep for maybe one or two more days.
  • Wash tomatoes under cool, running water and pat dry before serving.

How to Enjoy

Many people have a love/hate relationship with tomatoes. Some people love them and some people hate them, but even those who hate them often enjoy things like ketchup, salsa, and tomato sauce and in cocktails like Bloody Mary’s.

Here are some creative tomato recipes that can be found on Fill Your Plate. (For more, click on “recipes”, type in tomatoes, and a list of all our recipes with tomatoes will appear!)

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6 Mouth-watering Recipes To Try This Memorial Day

School is out and this Memorial Day weekend summer break is officially underway. We have gathered a list of 6 seasonal salads, grilled recipes and patriotic treats for you to try at your backyard party, or to bring with you on your next potluck or picnic.

nuts over brownies

photo: Jan D’Atri

  1. Sonoran Hamburgers
  • 1 lb. Hamburger Meat, seasoned and made into patties
  • Cheese slices, Cheddar, Mozzarella, Pepper Jack
  • Green Chili strips, from can or roast your own
  • Ripe tomato slices
  • Crisp lettuce
  • Hamburger buns


Season the hamburger patties to your taste and cook on the grill. Assemble the hamburgers as you like them. For mild, vibrant chili flavor, top with Santa Cruz Chili Paste. Or try my favorite – Santa Cruz Chipotle mayonnaise (1 Tbsp. Chipotle paste mixed with 1 Tbsp. mayo) for a sweet, hot smoky hamburger. Sonoran Hamburgers are a delicious blend of Mexican ‘heat’ added to an American favorite. Serve these at you next BBQ and watch them disappear. Make Sonoran Hamburgers your way, but be sure to include Santa Cruz Chili and Spice Co. ingredients.

Provided by:

Jeanie Neubauer, Santa Cruz Chili


  1. Sonoran Hotdogs
  • All Beef Hot Dogs
  • Bacon
  • Pinto Beans
  • Onions, chopped
  • Tomato, chopped
  • Mayonnaise
  • Mustard
  • Cheese
  • Roasted Green Chilies
  • Hot Dog Buns


Wrap the hot dog in the bacon and cook before making your hot dog. Mix and match your preferred ingredients, but be sure to tip it off with Santa Cruz Red Chili Paste for a mild, savory finish, or Santa Cruz Green Chili Paste for a bright, tangy flavor, or (my favorite) Santa Cruz Chipotle Paste for a smoky, hot kick. These flavorful hot dogs originated in Hermosillo, Mexico but have become quite popular throughout Arizona. Sonoran Hot Dogs are the latest crossover of Mexican flavors with an all American classic. They originated as a late night snack for hungry party animals heading home after closing time. Their zest comes from building your dog just the way you want it, but building off the basics.

Provided by:

Jeanie Neubauer, Santa Cruz Chili


  1. Orange Almond Salad
  • 1/2 cup almonds, sliced
  • 5 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash pepper
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. parsley
  • 1 head green/red leaf lettuce
  • 6-8 gr onions, chopped
  • 2 cans mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 cup celery, chopped


Stir almonds and 3 tablespoons sugar over low heat until coated, remove and set aside. Mix salt, pepper, oil, parsley, 2 tablespoons sugar and vinegar in a jar and refrigerate. Put the rest of the ingredients in a mixing bowl, stir in dressing and almonds.

Provided by:

Sherri Stevens, Phoenix Cotton Wives


  1. Artichoke Chicken Salad
  • 1 sm jar artichoke hearts
  • 1 tsp gr olive juice
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/4 cup gr onion
  • 1/4 cup gr olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup almonds, slivered
  • 3 cups rice, cooked
  • 4 cooked chicken breasts, chopped


For dressing: In a bowl, mix curry powder, green olive juice and mayonnaise and refrigerate for 6 hours. Drain artichoke hearts and chop into bite-size pieces. Add all other ingredients except almonds. Pour dressing over mixture. Mix thoroughly. Fold in almonds just before serving.

Provided by:

Laurel Holland, cotton, wheat and alfalfa farmer


  1. Apples and Cream Crumb
  • 1 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Flour
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 3 lbs. Golden Delicious or Granny Smith Apples, Peeled, Cored and cut into chunks
  • 1 9″ – 10″ unbaked pie crust
  • 1/2 cup Flour
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/3 cup Sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Cold Butter or Margarine
  • 1 cup Coarsely chopped walnuts


Pie: Mix sour cream, egg, sugar, flour and salt together with a wire whisk. Stir in apples and pour into pie crust. Bake in a preheated 450 oven for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 350 and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until set. Add topping. Topping: Combine flour, cinnamon, salt and sugars. Cut cold butter into the dry mixture, do not cream. Add walnuts. Spoon this mixture onto baked pie and return to the oven and bake another 15 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Provided by:

Sine Kerr of Kerr Dairy


  1. Nuts Over Brownies
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Butter
  • 1 Egg, Slightly Beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1 1/4 Teaspoons Vanilla
  • 2 Cups Chopped Walnuts or Cashews
  • 2 Cups Chopped Pecans
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • Ingredients for Brownies
  • 2 Sticks (1 Cup) Butter
  • 1/2 Cup, plus 1 Tablespoon Hershey’s Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla
  • 1 1/4 Cups Flour
  • 1 Teaspoons Baking Powder


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan combine 1cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup butter. Stir over low heat until butter mixture has a creamy consistency. Remove from heat and in beaten egg, 2 tablespoons flour, 2 teaspoons vanilla and salt. Mix well. Add nuts, stirring well. Set aside.

Provided by:

Jan D’Atri, Arizona Agriculture Advocate and local Celebrity Chef and Radio Personality


You can find these and more delicious recipes here on Fill Your Plate, just click on “recipes” and enter your favorite ingredient to see what comes up!


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Beef Cattle, So Much More Than Just A Hamburger

Arizona’s largest agriculture commodity is beef.

beef Cattle On Arizona's Range.

Annually, Arizona ranches produce enough beef to feed over 4.6 million Americans. But, did you know beef cattle’s uses go far beyond what you put on your dinner table? Beef by-products enable us to use 99% of every beef animal! Beef by-products are products we get from beef cattle that aren’t quite as obvious as hamburgers and steak.

A steer of around 1150 lbs. bears approximately 500 lbs. of beef. Most of the remaining weight is salvaged as by-products. To determine the items to be made with rest of the animal, there are three categories of by-products: Medicinal, Inedible, and Edible.

An edible by-product would be something we could eat. Common edible by-products of beef cattle would be the liver, kidneys, brain, or tongue. According to the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, fats in beef cattle yield oleo oil and oleo stock used in shortening and margarine. Oleo stearine is used in making certain candies and in chewing gum. The intestines may be used as natural sausage casings, and the gelatin that comes from the cattle’s skin and bones are used in canned meats, gelatin desserts (such as Jell-O), ice cream, and marshmallows.

It is almost guaranteed that at some point in time you have used some sort of inedible beef by-product, probably completely unaware that it was even there. You probably already know that leather is made from beef cattle hide, but were you aware that the hide is also found in other materials, such as felt? Here is a small list of some of the inedible beef by-products found in everyday items that we thought may surprise you.

  • Beef by-products are in binders for asphalt and plaster, and also provide a base for insulation materials used to heat and cool your home.
  • From one cow hide you can get 144 baseballs, or 18 soccer balls, or 12 basketballs, or 18 volleyballs, or 12 baseball gloves.
  • Footballs, which used to be called “pigskins,” are also generally produced from cattle hide. You can get 20 footballs from one hide.
  • “Camel hair” paint brushes are not actually camel hair, but are made from the fine hairs found in the ears the cattle.
  • Laundry pre-treatments contains enzymes – a protein found in cattle and sheep.
  • Inedible fats from beef are found in hand and face creams, lipsticks, soaps, industrial oils and lubricants, and are even in components for explosives.
  • There could be fatty acids from cattle added to your toilet paper to make it soft.
  • Fatty acids are used in the production of biodegradable detergents, flotation agents, and pesticides.
  • There is a fatty acid that is used in making car tires run cooler and, last longer.
  • Bones, hooves, and horns also provide valuable by-products. Such as, buttons, combs, fertilizer, piano keys, sandpaper, toothbrushes, wallpaper, and violin strings.
  • There is a cow on the label of Elmer’s glue because you use a cow’s hooves and horns to make glue.
  • Bone charcoal is vital in the production of high grade steel ball bearings.
  • They are also used to feed other animals. Beef fat, protein, and bone meals are used in feeding dairy cattle, domesticated fish, poultry, and swine.

A medicinal by-product would be something used by your doctor. There are more than 100 drugs performing important medicinal functions that contain beef by-products. Feasibly the best-known medication derived from cattle is insulin. In the United States there are an estimated 5 million people who are diabetic, and about 1.25 million need insulin daily.  According to Cattle Empire, it takes the pancreases of 26 cattle to produce enough insulin to keep one diabetic person alive for one year.

Other drugs made using beef cattle by-products include drugs that control anemia, make childbirth safer, relieve symptoms of asthma and hay fever, settle an upset stomach, and prevent blood clots in the circulatory system. Another interesting medicinal by-product would be the material used for surgical sutures that is derived from the intestines of the animal.

Wow! That is a lot of product coming from beef cattle! So be sure to thank a cow the next time you wear make-up, deodorant, leather and bandages, or eat marshmallows, Jell-O, and mayonnaise, or even chew your favorite gum!


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Sweet Corn Season Begins In May In AZ

Arizona has one of the longer sweet corn seasons in the country which runs from late May all the way through September. In the northern and southern parts of the state they begin to harvest in mid-July. Central Arizona’s sweet corn season runs late May to Mid-July.

Sweet Corn

According to the USDA, Illinois and Iowa are the top corn-producing states, and account for a little more than one-third of the U.S. crop. Arizona grows around 0.04% of the U.S. crop.

The earliest known evidence of domesticated corn is 8000 B.C. in Central America, however there is indirect evidence that corn may have even been domesticated as early as 10,000 years ago. According to the Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World, the Mayans would chew on the sweet corn leaves like we chew gum today.

The name “corn” was once a more generic term that related to whatever grain was prevalent in a certain region. This would mean that in England wheat was, at one time, referred to as corn, and in Ireland and Scotland “corn” would have actually been oats. It was the early American settlers that first referred to “corn on the cob,” or “corn” as we know it now. Today corn is the third most important crop in the world and grows on every continent except for Antarctica.

Around 14,000 lbs. of sweet corn can be grown on only one acre of land, and depending on the cultivator type, the crop could be ready for harvesting within 65-90 days. A corn plant will typically grow to be 7-10 feet tall, though sweet corn plants are usually a few feet shorter. Ears of corn always have an even number of rows of kernels, usually 16. And, that annoying silk on the top – each one is responsible for one kernel of corn on the ear. The average ear of corn contains between 500 and 1000 kernels of corn.

As a traditional summer food, sweet corn is served around the world in many a backyard barbecue, and family gathering. One of the best reasons to enjoy Arizona sweet corn this summer is that not only is it full of flavor, it is also loaded with nutrients! Sweet corn delivers vitamins A and C, potassium, and thiamine.  It is packed with antioxidants, full of fiber, and cholesterol free. It is also a whole grain, and who doesn’t need more whole grains in their diet?  The USDA recommends the average adult consume about 6 oz. a day of grains, with at least 3 oz. being whole grains.

When buying sweet corn, you should look for ears that are well-formed with tight husks that are light green in color, and golden-brown silks. If the husk is dry, avoid purchase, as this means the stock is old, and out of flavor. You could also buy the fresh-husked corn cobs wrapped in plastic. On these, look for a harvest date, and only buy the most recent, as the kernels will turn sugars to starch and quickly lose their sweet flavor. When you bring it home you should use your corn as early as possible to avoid losing its juicy, sweet flavor. If you plan on storing them, you should do so in the refrigerator, preferably with its husk intact to maintain optimal flavor and moisture. Corn can stay up to 2-3 days when stored at 90% humidity and 32 °F.

Sweet corn can be enjoyed in many ways. You can boil or steam and butter it, or even grill it. Boiled corn kernels are excellent in salads, stews, soups, omelets, fried-rice, etc. Corn chowder is a favorite meal starter in many parts of the world. After boiling the cob you can use the water along with carrots, parsnips, celery-stalks, onion, and so on to make a delicious vegetable stock.

However you choose to make it, one thing is certain, sweet corn is earrisistible!

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National Chocolate Chip Day

May 15 is National Chocolate Chip Day!

Chocolate chips overflowing from brown ceramic ramekin onto wood

Chocolate chips are a crucial ingredient in many deserts and baked goods, such as, chocolate chip muffins, chocolate chip brownies, mint chocolate chip ice-cream, and chocolate chip bagels. However, chocolate chip cookies are arguably the most popular way to use them.

According to women-inventors.com, the original chocolate chip cookie was created by Ruth Graves Wakefield in Whitman, Massachusetts at her Toll House Inn in the 1930’s. It is said that one day when she was baking chocolate cookies she ran out of baker’s chocolate, so she substituted with chopped up semi-sweet morsels. After baking she discovered that the pieces did not melt as was expected, but she served the cookies any way and they were an instant hit.

Ruth originally called her accidental creations “Toll House Crunch Cookies.” Locally they became enormously popular and her recipe was published in a Boston newspaper. As the popularity of her cookies grew, Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate bars sales also increased. Later the owners of Nestle and Ruth would make an arrangement. Nestle would be able to print the Toll House Cookie recipe on their packaging, and Ruth would get a lifetime supply of Nestle Chocolate.

Nestle originally sold the chocolate as a bar with a small chopping tool. It wasn’t until the 1940’s that they started selling it in morsel (or “chip”) form. The chocolate chip cookie has since become one of the most popular cookies in the United States, with an estimated 25% of all cookies baked being chocolate chip.

To celebrate National Chocolate Chip Day, we have included the Original NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.


  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 375° F.
  • Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
  • Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
  • PAN COOKIE VARIATION: Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.
  • SLICE AND BAKE COOKIE VARIATION: Prepare dough as above. Divide in half; wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Shape each half into 15-inch log; wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.* Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies. * May be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 8 weeks.
  • FOR HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING (5,200 feet): Increase flour to 2 1/2 cups. Add 2 teaspoons water with flour and reduce both granulated sugar and brown sugar to 2/3 cup each. Bake drop cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and pan cookie for 17 to 19 minutes.


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