Virginia Farm Flavors: Hanover Tomatoes

A tomato is a tomato is a tomato, right? Nope. Not at all. Hanover tomatoes, the summertime belles of the ball at most local farm stands, come in all shapes and sizes. The name “Hanover tomato” encompasses all types: slicers, heirlooms, cherries, romas, etc. So why do all these varieties get labeled under one name? Because in this situation, the variety is secondary to the location in which they’re grown. When it comes to Hanover tomatoes, it’s more about the terroir than the individual type. Now obviously I had to look this word up because honestly, it doesn’t hold a large place in my day-to-day vocabulary. Terroir is typically applied to wine production but holds true here too. It’s the concept that the entire environment must be taken into account – soil, topography, and climate. It’s these factors that can’t be replicated and are what make a Hanover tomato stand out. In this situation, it has mostly to do with the soil. This is just one example of the many benefits of taking care of and building up our soil. Large monocrops planted according to commercial agriculture practices strip the soil of its natural minerals and microbiome, often requiring artificial petroleum-based inputs to get any future crop production. This is why small farms like Woodside are so important to the integrity of the land and its products and often give back much more than they take from the soil.

Hanover tomatoes are the real star of the summer throughout most of Virginia and beyond. Tomato connoisseurs come from all over to enjoy the plump fruits while local menus pay tribute to this summer celebrity. But did you know that they’re a summertime treat not only for their taste but also for their many health benefits?
Many of us have already heard of lycopene. But did you know that it’s currently the most powerful antioxidant which has been measured in food? It’s found in exceptionally high quantities in tomatoes and is predominantly known for its ability to fight off many different types of cancers by way of hindering cancerous tumor growth. It’s most well-researched for prostate cancer but has also been found to be beneficial in stomach, lung, colon, breast, and cervical cancers. Additionally, lycopene is fat-soluble, which means it’s more likely to be absorbed by your body after it’s somewhat cooked. So it’s good to try tomatoes in a variety of different ways!
Tomatoes are also rich in a type of carotenoid known as lutein. Lutein is helpful at preventing and slowing down the thickening of arteries while also being extremely beneficial in preventing macular degeneration. On top of all that, the carotenoids in tomatoes are powerful antioxidants, which further help in preventing the hardening and thickening of arteries that lead to cardiovascular disease.
On top of all this, tomatoes are exceptionally high in vitamin C. When you add all this up, you get pretty powerful skin protection. Vitamin C helps promote skin elasticity as well as skin cell repair and renewal, while lycopene and lutein are known for their ability to protect against light-induced skin damage (sunburn). If you think about it, tomatoes are at their peak during the height of summer. When do you need the most protection from light-induced skin damage? During the height of summer when the sun’s rays are less compassionate. Just another example of nature knowing exactly what we need when we need it!
Right now, we have a ton of tomatoes ripening on the vines every day. So I’m trying to find the best ways to use up a lot of tomatoes and enjoy them all summer long. I love this homemade ketchup recipe below from Dr. Axe because it not only uses one of my summertime favorites but it also helps cut some questionable ingredients out of my life. Have you ever looked at the ingredients list on the back of a ketchup bottle? Who passed that science experiment off and allowed it to sit on our grocery store shelves pretending to be a natural product? Try making this one at home and sharing it at your next picnic. You’ll get so many compliments (which if we’re all being honest, is the real reason so many of us do anything)! Try the recipe here!