top of page

COME INTO THE KITCHEN, GARDENER: Tomatoes, the Umami Superfood

By Karen England.




  1. a category of taste in food (besides sweet, sour, salt, and bitter), corresponding to the flavor of glutamates, especially monosodium glutamate. - Oxford Languages English Dictionary

"Definition of umami – The sensation of taste and flavor enhancement, especially in the initial stage of stimulation of the brain, not completely understood by science." -

Umami and salt, flavor and seasoning.




  1. a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.

"he touts broccoli sprouts and salmon as two of the most perfect superfoods"

According to Katherine D. McManus, MS, RD, LDN of Harvard Health Publishing "No single food — not even a superfood — can offer all the nutrition, health benefits, and energy we need to nourish ourselves. . . . However, there are a few foods that can be singled out for special recognition. These 'superfoods' offer some very important nutrients that can power-pack your meals and snacks, and further enhance a healthy eating pattern." -


Tomatoes are universally recognized as being both umami in taste and a superfood in nutrition and we can grow them, or get them grown locally, year round which in my book puts the "duper" to their "superduper powers".

Like many of you, I use my homegrown tomatoes in salads, to make tomato soup, salsa fresca, BLATs (BLTs with avocado), pasta prima vera, and on and on. I freeze them, can them, and dry them. In addition to those tomato standards, here are three of my favorite tomato recipes from a file full of favorites plus one honorable mention . . .

1. From an old Susan Branch Calendar - Garden Fresh Summer Tomatoes

Treasured Susan Branch recipe clipped from an old calendar.


8 vine-ripened garden tomatoes, roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, put through a press

3 shallots, chopped

1 cup good, fruity olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh basil, slivered

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

lots of freshly ground pepper; salt to taste


Put all ingredients in a glass bowl or jar, cover tightly and set in the sun four or five hours. Use as a salad dressing, on toast for bruschetta, or fresh over hot pasta.


2. From Everyday Food Magazine 2005, Cherry Tomato Crisp

Tomato Crisp from


1 1/2 pounds (about 5 cups) cherry tomatoes

2 slices white sandwich bread

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 chopped garlic clove

Coarse salt and ground pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor, combine bread, Parmesan cheese, parsley leaves, olive oil, and garlic, season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Pulse until bread is very coarsely chopped, 4 to 6 times.

2. In an 8-inch square baking dish, arrange cherry tomatoes in a single layer, sprinkle with crumb mixture. Bake until crust is browned, and tomatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.


3. From the Food Network, Paula Deen's Tomato Pie (annotated)

Tomato Pie from


1 cup grated mozzarella (I use Monterey Jack)

1 9-inch prebaked deep dish pie shell (I use a homemade whole wheat pie crust)

1/2 cup chopped green onion

10 chopped fresh basil leaves

4 peeled and sliced tomatoes (I don't bother peeling . . .)

1 cup grated Cheddar

1 cup mayonnaise (I keep hens, so I make homemade mayonnaise)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

First, blanch the tomatoes (if peeling) and slice. Place the tomatoes in the colander to drain.

Using a medium sized bowl, mix mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, mozzarella (or Jack) cheese, salt and pepper.

Layer the tomato slices, basil, and onion in pie shell. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the mayonnaise and cheese mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

To serve, cut into slices and serve warm.


Honorable Mention - in the 2015 book Tomatomania! A Fresh Approach to Celebrating Tomatoes in the Garden and in the Kitchen by Scott Daigre and Jenn Garbee, St. Martin's Griffin Press . . .

. . . In the section of the book called 'Kitchen Basics' is a "recipe" for Tomato Water that rocked my world.

"All that clear juice inside the tomato cavity has a subtle tomato flavor, very different from store-bought juice. Use tomato water to poach seafood and chicken, blanch vegetables or as a cocktail base . . . To save tomato water: as you chop tomatoes, dump any juice that accumulates on your cutting board directly into a bowl, easy as that. Anytime you smash tomatoes (for a recipe) ... use a colander-lined bowl to catch the drippings. Store tomato water in the fridge for up to five days or freeze."


Newsletter Editor and SDHS President, Karen England, who can be reached by email at and found on Instagram as @edgehillherbfarm, ate all the tomatoes shown in this February 2021 issue of Let's Talk Plants!

- burp.


bottom of page