As a big fan of one-pot meals with all six tastes and a textural variety, stews place high on the weekly menu. No matter the season, and especially towards the end of summer, the beginnings of fall. When energy begins to dissipate. Simplify daily living to focus on rejuvenation is one essential goal. This period when summer aka pitta season begins to meet fall aka vata season is also peak tomato season. A fruit that is known to be unbalancing for all doshas. Therefore, omitted from diets rooted in a 100% pure sattva only foods.
A fan of eating the fruits and vegetable Mother Nature blesses us with each season, tomatoes continue to remain on my food list. This is not without significant testing to a balance that works for me. When I see Roma, Early Girls, San Marzanos’ and heirloom varietals dress the stalls. Looking all fiery, ripe and ready for a drizzle of olive oil and salt. I’m ready to enjoy the seasonal nutrients Mother Nature is communicating to me. She’s talking and I am listening. As long as the tomatoes are grown naturally. With no GMOs, pesticides, ripened by the sun in loam from a farm as close to home as one can get.
Although, I appreciate a sweet vine-ripened, sun-kissed tomato now. There was a time, I omitted them from my diet completely. Eating seasonally is one key layer of living sustainably, then there is the other layer of information that lives within me, Ayurveda. Which reminds me to consider how a food will engage with a body-mind from pre to post-digestion. A perspective, which leads to—are tomatoes healthy for me?
From this lens, I’ve learned that tomatoes, a night-shade, are not considered ideal for any dosha. They are said to promote inflammation and be overly acidic food. Not just according to the time-tested science of Ayurveda, but also by today’s health standards. Inflammation and acid, are two factors that lead to dis-ease. Especially for those with arthritic conditions, joint pain, hyperacidity, skin issues, any disorder rooted in inflammation.
Nonetheless, tomatoes are a part of many a cultures diet. For some, it is not realistic to remove this juicy, lycopene-rich (also found in red carrots, watermelon, and papaya) fruit from their diet. What is important is being aware, practicing balance, taking into account how you prep, cook and eat tomatoes, when you eat them, how much you eat of them, and are they fresh or canned? Factors that also play a role in how will tomatoes affect an individual’s constitution. Not only in its current state but also based on what imbalances one is prone to in the future.
When I started looking at all of these factors, the multiple perspectives, I slowly began to omit tomatoes from my diet. Only when I reintroduced them back to the menu, did I have a deeper comprehension of how tomatoes and I are in relationship. I could feel the acidity rising when I ate too much, did not cook them properly, used a can (high in citric acid) or mixed them with other inflammatory foods. The experience was enlightening. Leading me to adjust goto recipes, and slowly realizing, I could cook without them. A weekly grocery item, tomatoes moved to the occasional purchase list.
In between summer and fall is when they move them back to the weekly list, but not the daily menu. I have found this works well for me at this point in my life. I can enjoy a few raw slices with a little salt and pepper on toasted olive oiled bread. Although, I prefer to slow cook them until their natural sugars are released. Reducing the acidity. Along with cooking them with cooling spices like cumin, coriander to aid digestion and balance the acidity and heat.
Taking the season, Ayurveda’s unique knowledge on how food’s digest and engage with the body-mind and the state of my constitution into consideration has given me the confidence to trust my choices. Enjoy a tomato in all its glory. With no guilt or judgment. Slightly increasing tomato consumption during peak season has not increased acid levels. I have found that having a complementary perspective alongside nutritional based science has allowed me to think deeper about what is or is not healthy. I know what I need to be aware of, keeping me present and in the moment. Having another language has also shown me there is more to defining healthy than nutrition. The answer is not always yes or no, good or bad. The answer evolves as I age, the current state of my health, the season, and the environmental factors.
Ayurveda + Tomatoes
Tomatoes are a nightshade, like eggplants, potatoes and bell peppers. With properties that causes inflammation in the body, especially around the joints. It is considered a cautionary food, one that can aggravate all doshas. Intake of nightshades like tomatoes is generally not recommended, especially for those practicing a pure sattva diet or imbalances related to joints and high acidity. When eating tomatoes, taking the quantity enjoyed, season and preparation are recommended, according to your individual needs. Using spices like cumin, turmeric, and black pepper can help reduce tomatoes negative effect. Along with peeling and seeding tomatoes. Nonetheless, its important to state, this does not omit their negative effect.
APRICOT & GINGER CHICKPEA STEW
- 1 small red onion finely diced 1/2 cup
- 2 carrots diced or shredded 1 cup
- 2 cups tomatoes fresh ripe, peeled, seeded and chopped*
- 1 1/2 cups garbanzo beans cooked*
- 7 dried Turkish apricots quartered
- 4 cups water/bone broth/stock* + 1/8 cup
- 1 bunch chard finely chopped stems and leaves separated
- 2 zucchinis quartered lengthwise and chopped in big chunks
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 sprig rosemary*
- 1 small clove garlic minced optional
- 2 T freshly grated ginger
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2 1/2 tsp coriander powder* toasted
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
- extra-virgin olive-oil for drizzling
In a 4-6 quart pot, add ghee and let warm over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the cumin seeds (it should gently sizzle). Let the seeds toast slightly for 10-20 seconds, then add the onions. Saute for 2 minutes, then add the carrots. Continue to saute until both soften up. About 10 mins in a well-heated pot over medium heat.
Add the garlic and ginger and saute for another 2-3 minutes to remove the raw flavor. If the ginger starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, don’t worry. Once the tomatoes are added it will deglaze the pot. Be careful to not let the ginger burn.
Add the tomatoes, turmeric, toasted coriander powder, salt + 1/8 cup water. Stir, bring to a simmer and cover. Let cook occasionally stirring to ensure the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Turn down the heat if needed.
After 30 minutes, using a potato masher, gently mash the mixture. This help blend the flavors and help break down the tomatoes. Continue to cook for 30 additional minutes, to bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes and reduce the acidity. Occasionally stirring or mashing the mixture if needed. Add a little more water if needed, to prevent sticking. Remove the rosemary twig during this time, the needles can remain in the sauce.
After 60 minutes or so of cooking, add the garbanzo beans, apricots, and 1/2 the broth/water. Bring to a boil, simmer for 15 minutes to marry the flavors.
Then add finely sliced chard stems and zucchini chunks, cook for 3-5 minutes or until the zucchini is halfway cooked. Then add the chopped chard leaves. Stir until the leaves wilt.
Sprinkle cinnamon powder over the top, cover and turn off the stove. Letting the stew sit covered for about 5 minutes or just until the zucchini is tender but not soft. Serve as is with a drizzle of olive oil or over Saffron & Golden Raisin Couscous.
- If cooking your own garbanzo beans, use 1/2 cup dried beans soak for up to 24 hours. Cook in a pot with 4 cups water. Add a bay leaf and pinch of asafoetida/ hing to aid digestion. Cook covered for about 30-40 covered minutes until tender.
- Drain and rinse with cold water once time to allow any chickpea skin floats to the top, remove these skins, to further support digestion. Peel fresh tomatoes by soaking them in boiling water for about 5-10 minutes.
- Removing the skin and seeds are said inflammatory. Tomatoes can also be replaced with 1/2 red lentils to thicken the broth. Add them along with broth/water, when it says to add tomatoes. Then continue with the remaining process. Note cook time will reduce. We used 2 cups water and 2 cups bone broth for the recipe Thyme can be substituted for rosemary If you do not have toasted coriander powder, add it when adding the ginger to toast it up.