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In Season Now: Tomatoes

From the gnarly heirlooms to the softball sized big boys to the petite grape, pear and cherry varieties, vine-ripened tomatoes from Maine’s farmers markets are special. Try as they might, growers cannot duplicate the robust flavor and juiciness of a tomato grown outdoors in season.

A good source of antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene and lycopene, which is good for cardiovascular health, bone health and more. There’s even some research that tomatoes can lower the risk of some cancers like prostate cancer. Plus, they’re low in calories (there’s only about 32 calories in a cup of sliced tomatoes!).

This nightshade can be found at farmers’ markets throughout Maine starting sometime in August. They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Don’t be afraid to slice up a tart green zebra and sprinkle it with a little salt. Or top your BLT sandwich with a juicy purple-tinged Brandywine slice.

For this salad, petite tomatoes are best. Any color and variety will do.

Farmers Market Panzanella Salad

Serves 6-8

1 loaf French bread, torn into bite-size pieces (about 6 cups)

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cups halved cherry, pear and/or grape tomatoes

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 cucumber, peeled and diced

½ cup sliced fresh basil

1/3 cup diced red onion

2 ears corn, steamed

Vinaigrette:

¼ cup olive oil

3 tbsp red wine vinegar

½ tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp honey

salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and arrange the bread pieces on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss well to coat. Bake for 4-6 minutes, until hot and just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and cool.

In a large mixing bowl, toss together the tomatoes, red bell pepper, carrots, cucumber, basil and red onion. Cut the kernels from the corn cobs, and add kernels to the mixture, tossing well to combine. Discard the cobs. Stir the cooled bread pieces into the mixture.

Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients and pour over the bread mixture. Toss well to combine. Let sit for five minutes and then stir again. Enjoy.

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