Canned Tomatoes 101

July 30, 2012

Shopping for canned tomatoes and confused with all of the choices? Find out the basics here.

What are Canned Tomatoes? Roma or plum tomatoes and their varietals are the most commonly used in cans. They are sold diced, sliced, stewed, roasted, crushed, and ready-cut or whole. They are often packed a “peak freshness” and so a great option when tomatoes are not in season.

How to Buy: Prepared tomatoes, sold in cans, are conventional or organic, sold plain, with basil, chilies or chili seasoning, fire roasted, with onions and garlic, onion and green pepper, or garlic and oregano. Some are imported or gourmet choices at substantially higher prices.

How to Use: Excellent time-saver for creating your own sauces, as peeling, cooking, and the flavoring, is done for you. Use in any recipe that calls for a tomato sauce or blend with cheese or milk for richer sauce. Can be used for Italian, Mexican or Caribbean recipes, or use in soups or stews with vegetable, beef or chicken stock.

How to Store: Can be stored in a cool dry cupboard until ready to use; once opened, refrigerate in a tightly sealed container.

Health Benefits: Tomatoes are high in fiber and antioxidants, particularly the carotenoid, lycopene, well known for promoting eye health and fighting some cancers. Cooked tomatoes have high amounts of vitamins C, A and K, potassium and manganese, and trace elements of many other nutrients. Cooking does not seem to diminish the nutrients significantly. Relatively low in calories (70-80 per ½ cup.) Sodium content varies from 280-700mg per ½ cup. Some salt free choices.

Smarter Shopping: Sizes vary from 10-14.5oz. for most brands; larger 28oz. cans are available; check the per-ounce price to verify value. Look for sodium free versions, read ingredient lists for unnecessary additives.

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