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Tomatoes I'm sowing for Lycopene

Tomatoes I'm Sowing for Lycopene

October 1 2018

Every new garden is mixed with happiness and tinged with sadness at leaving the last. As we assess every new soil and dig every new raised bed we wonder, "Which tomatoes will grow well here?"

One thing is for sure, every year wherever we happen to be living, we grow Golden Orange tomatoes. Why? Because many of the heritage Golden Orange tomatoes have been proven to have a specially absorbable form of lycopene, one of the natural protectors of human health! 1 Just one Golden Orange tomato with the special lycopene can decrease the level of free radicals in your blood! OK, time to unravel that little phrase.

But first let me tell you about the tomatoes we are growing this year. And what are those huge orbs in the photo? Yes they are tomatoes not grapefruit. Who knew that the lower North Island of New Zealand could grow such beauties outdoors?

Tomato: Dwarf Mountain Gold

This variety is called: Dwarf Mountain Gold. The plant is determinate, meaning the growth is bush like, so doesn't need much support. Except last year, in 2017, the plants became so laden with tomatoes, we needed to prop up the branches with fence battens. Pieces of forked branch would work just as well.

More Tomatoes: Roma, Olgas Golden Chicken Egg, Marmande, Cherries...

Little tomato seedlings are doing their best to grow in the still chilly days of spring 2018. We have a small range of tomatoes this year, as country mice managed to squeeze into the potting shed and happily munch on all my best saved seed, laid out for drying. Thankfully, two fellow gardeners have come to the rescue and gifted me some of their seed. Thank you Mark and Richard.

Roma - these seeds were in a jar, so they were safe from the mice. They have germinated extremely well in 2018. We use these red oblate tomatoes for drying in slices, and also for preserving in jars. The little stems are strengthening up ready for planting out in late October. The lycopene from red tomatoes is improved if you cook the tomato and make sure to add a little healthy fat such as olive or coconut oil.

Olgas Golden Chicken Egg - who can resist growing a tomato like this? Last year each plant produced several large round golden orange tomatoes which were firm and the flavour slightly sherbet like. We also bottled some.

Black Cherry - thanks to Chris from Wholegrain Organics for seeds last year. Our son grew nearly a dozen of these last year. They were quite slow to start producing, and then they wouldn't stop! They were sweet and had a depth of flavour, not as smoky as Black Krim or Paul Robeson. They shone as sliced dehydrated slices, and of course in salads.

White Cherry - another gift, this time from one of our beautiful daughters in law. This white cherry tomato is very pale and very sweet. The seeds are tiny. This is my first year growing White Cherry.

Marmande - I first met Marmande in a street market in the spring, far away in Provence, France. Ever since, I grow Marmande for the essence of Provence. There is something about the flavour and aroma which makes my heart sing with joy.

Green Yellow - this is a new gift from a friend. I know nothing about this one!

You can find all these seeds at Bristol Plants and Seeds online, your mouth will water, guaranteed: www.bristol.co.nz

All about Lycopene in Tomatoes

Lycopene is an antioxidant. Antioxidants are found throughout the plant world, and humans even manufacture some antioxidants, you may have heard of glutathione for instance, called the body's master antioxidant. They are tiny molecular substances that help to keep us healthy by donating a part of themselves to "other molecules" which are missing these same parts.2 

Lycopene is found in all golden orange, orange and red plant foods. But researchers at Ohio University in the USA discovered that for some reason, the lycopene in a special type of tomato called Tangerine had a different shape to the lycopene in red tomatoes. Instead of a straight, or linear shape contained in the red tomatoes (called all trans lycopene), the lycopene in golden orange tomatoes was horseshoe shaped, known as tetra-cis-lycopene. 3What was going on here?

Lycopene helps calm Free Radicals

As one of thousands of antioxidants, Lycopene reduces damage to the body by giving part of itself to "other molecules" which are incomplete. These "other molecules" I'm referring to are called free radicals. They are missing a tiny part called an electron. So, to try and make themselves complete, the free radicals go around attacking other healthy molecules, causing damage called oxidation. Just imagine a cutting an apple and then watching the cut surface start to brown - basically that is oxidation - biological rusting. How do our bodies get these free radical molecules? 

Easy - our world is so polluted with toxic substances, that our bodies are always fighting the battle. In fact, our bodies produce these free radicals as a natural response to toxins in the air, water and food we ingest - as well as cigarette smoke, chemicals and even medications. Anywhere there is inflammation the free radicals arrive on the scene. They tend to collect in the fatty membrane of the cells, and begin causing damage.

Antioxidants - Lycopene is just one of Many

Antioxidants to the rescue! Antioxidants donate an electron to the free radical molecules. This helps to keep our bodies healing and repairing. Really, this is a very basic description of antioxidants, and maybe not a very good one. The antioxidant world is quite complex - there are different classes, with different roles, some even completely sacrifice themselves.

Antioxidants Sacrifice 

Wow! That sounds like a description of another true life scenario where a special Someone, sacrificed Himself for others. 

There are water soluble antioxidants and fat (or lipid) soluble antioxidants. Lycopene is one of many antioxidants in the Carotenoid family. The carotenoids are fat soluble and are there to protect the fat membrane around every single cell in our body. The clue to the mystery is: "around" every cell. 

Can you see how the lycopene is valuable in protecting the fatty cell membrane - because that's where the free radicals tend to gather. But WHY are Golden Orange tomatoes better?

Let's unravel the mystery even further.

Horseshoe shaped Lycopene for Health

You see, some of the heritage species of Golden Orange tomatoes contain that special type of lycopene which is superbly absorbed by the human body. As referred to above, this form of lycopene is called tetra-cis-lycopene, and is shaped like a horseshoe - fitting perfectly into the fatty cell membrane. Just one Golden Orange tomato eaten raw can increase the blood level of lycopene for nearly 24 hours.

But what about luscious and familiar red tomatoes? Well, as it turns out, red tomatoes have a different form of lycopene called all-trans-lycopene. Way back in the 1400's breeding of tomatoes was all about producing red tomatoes, much more acceptable to people of the day. Over the centuries the aim of breeding has changed. Today for instance, breeders want tomatoes which can be picked green and still ripen, tomatoes which can travel thousands of miles in trucks and not bruise, tomatoes which can sit for days under supermarket lights and remain fresh. Slowly but surely the shape of the precious and life saving lycopene changed to be less useful to the human body. Straighter, and more difficult for the body to incorporate into the cell membrane, and if the lycopene is incorporated, the fit is not a good one. A bit like trying to fit a baguette into a soup bowl. How sad. And scientists have recently published research showing some genes have disappeared, unintentionally, as a result from the centuries of breeding. 

But some of the Golden Orange tomatoes seem to have retained the original horseshoe shaped lycopene. Now which one would you like to eat for strength?

Take a look at our very own New Zealand research trust, researching heritage varieties of tomatoes, apples, beans and more...


Much love to you, wherever you are on the 1st day of October 2018.

1. Heritage Food Crops Research Trust. (n.d.). Heirloom Tomatoes. Retrieved from https://heritagefoodcrops.org.nz/heirloom-tomatoes

2. Mercola, J. (n.d.). The Ultimate Guide to Antioxidants. Retrieved from https://articles.mercola.com/antioxidants.aspx

3. American Institute of Cancer Research. (n.d.). Heat, Shape and Type: Increasing Lycopene Absorption. Retrieved from http://www.aicr.org/cancer-research-update/2015/10_14/cru_Heat-Shape-and-Type-Increasing-Lycopene-Absorption.html

Posted: Mon 01 Oct 2018