A great summer tomato should drip with juice, burst with sweet-tart flavor, and shame the supermarket specimens sold during the cold months. “Winter tomatoes are often picked green and may be ripened artificially with ethylene gas,” says Barry Estabrook, author ofTomatoland. That makes a difference — a Spanish study found that vine-ripened tomatoes are higher in lycopene, vitamin C, and total phenols and flavonoids than tomatoes that were picked green.
And those compounds can have a wide range of benefits. In a study from Finland, men who consumed high amounts of lycopene had a significantly lower risk of stroke. In Japan, researchers found that a compound in tomatoes can help break down lipids in the bloodstream, reducing the risk of vascular diseases. And frequent tomato consumption may even improve prostate health, according to a meta-analysis of studies from Royal Victoria Hospital and McGill University. To boost the flavor and nutritional power of tomatoes even further, take your cue from Andrew Feinberg, chef and co-owner of Franny’s restaurant in Brooklyn and coauthor of the new cookbook Franny’s: Simple Seasonal Italian.