Who doesn’t love home grown tomatoes? It is finally that time of year at the farmer’s market for fresh, local tomatoes to start appearing on vendor’s tables. Let’s learn more about this summer favorite.

The tomato originated in modern day Peru and was first used as food by the Aztec Indians of southern Mexico. China is the leading producer of tomatoes, closely followed by India and the United States. The tomato is not a vegetable, but a fruit because it has seeds and grows from a flowering plant. There are over 7,500 varieties of tomatoes and they can be found in many colors from the common red to brown, white, and even purple. You will find the following types of tomatoes at the farmer’s market: Beefsteak, which are large and round and often used in sandwiches or for fresh eating. Plum tomatoes that are oblong and work well in salsas, sauces, and paste. Cherry tomatoes are small and round and often sweet and eaten whole. And, heirloom tomatoes, which is a tomato grown from vintage seeds. Heirlooms tend to have a shorter shelf life and are less disease resistant, but they are known for their beautiful colors, shapes, and superior taste. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that is good for the heart and effective at protecting against certain cancers. Cooking tomatoes actually helps to increase the lycopene our bodies absorb. They are packed with vitamins A and C, calcium and potassium. And, did you know that Oklahoma has a special place in tomato history? The world’s largest tomato was grown in 1986 by a farmer in Edmond and weighed over seven pounds!

We are introducing a new vendor this week at the market that will be bringing greenhouse-grown tomatoes to Miami each week. Horton’s Produce and Pumpkin Patch, from Bluejacket, has tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, and mums growing in their fields as we speak. They will be your go-to at the farmer’s market for beautiful, round beefsteak tomatoes this season. Thao Farm, from Eucha, is expecting more beefsteak and cherry tomato varieties to ripen in the next week so those who have missed the tomatoes so far at the farmer’s market should be in better luck soon! Their tasty heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes will begin to ripen in the next two to three weeks.

This week at the Ottawa County Farmers Market is our annual Red, White & Blue Night! This year we will be celebrating Independence Day by giving away a fireworks package, valued at over $250! All you have to do to enter is make a purchase at the market this Thursday, July 2 from 4-7 p.m. at 225 B St NW in Miami. We are allowing one entry per adult (18 years or older) and you do not have to be present to win. The winner will be announced at 7 p.m. that night. As always, use cash, credit, SNAP, and senior farmers market benefits at the market & get up to $20 in free produce when you use your SNAP card!