Consider the Versatile Tomato

It’s never too early to start thinking about what to do with all the tomatoes that will soon be overwhelming gardens and markets.

There are, of course, soups, salads and pasta sauces. But consider making a tomato chutney that would be a nice accompaniment to grilled summer foods.


Chutney – which comes from the East Indian word chatni – is a sweet and spicy condiment containing fruit, vinegar, sugar and spice. It is commonly served with Indian curries but has become widely used with other dishes as well.

Using ripe summer tomatoes as a chutney base is a good way to deal with a surplus crop as well as to add a healthful bite to any meal. Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins A and C, and a powerful cancer-fighting antioxidant called lycopene. Studies have linked diets high in lycopene with lower prostate cancer risk, as well as lower risk of stomach and pancreatic cancers.

Lycopene is what gives tomatoes, watermelon, papaya and pink grapefruit their color. When tomatoes are cooked, more of the lycopene becomes available in the cancer-fighting process, so sauces, chutneys and other processed versions of tomatoes are health-protective as well as convenient.

When choosing tomatoes, look for those that are vine-ripened and deeply colored. They should feel heavy for their size. Unripe tomatoes can be ripened in a paper bag at room temperature. Do not refrigerate fresh tomatoes because their texture will become mealy and their taste watery.

Fragrant herbs such as basil, oregano, dill, parsley and thyme are ideal seasonings for tomatoes, but more pungent spices like curry powder, cumin, or chili powder also blend beautifully with tomatoes, as in this chutney.

Sweet Curried Tomato Chutney

– Makes 6 servings or 1 1/2 cups.

  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add tomatoes and cook 30 seconds, or until skin begins to peel. Drain. When cool enough to handle, remove skin and chop. Place tomatoes in a medium saucepan and add remaining ingredients.

Set pan over medium-high heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20-25 minutes, or until tomatoes break down and mixture becomes thick. Serve warm or chilled with chicken, fish, or mild-tasting vegetables such as cauliflower.

Per serving: 48 calories, 0 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat), 12 g. carbohydrate, less than 1 g. protein, 1 g. dietary fiber, 9 mg. sodium.

The Author:

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) offers a Nutrition Hotline online at or via phone 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, MondayFriday, at 1-800-843-8114. This free service allows you to ask questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. A registered dietitian will respond to your email or call, usually within 3 business days. AICR is the only major cancer charity focusing exclusively on how the risk of cancer is reduced by healthy food and nutrition, physical activity and weight management. The Institute’s education programs help millions of Americans lower their cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S. Over $82 million in funding has been provided. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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