It only took a trip to Mile 12, Ketu Market in Lagos, the popular fruit and vegetable market, for us to change the focus of our writing for this week. The sight of rotten heaps of tomato and pepper clearly calls for urgent government/individual attention to factor out ways of utilising and preserving these highly perishable vegetables.
This is usually the season of tomato, bonnet pepper and other types of red pepper in Nigeria. At this season, a big basket of tomato that normally sells for between N9,000-N10,000 sells for about N4,000-N5,000. The same thing applies to pepper but within the next three months this same product will become so scarce in the market that the current price will triple.
Unfortunately, tomato fruit from the plant Solanum Lycopersicum which a majority of Nigerians use daily though very rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can hardly remain fresh for one week if not properly refrigerated. Regrettably, regular refrigeration is out of the question for most Nigerians as the government has found it beyond them to provide its citizens with electric supply.
The good news, however, is that we can still preserve this product which is classified as fruit, berry and vegetable. Though it originated from South and Central Africa, it has become almost indispensable because of its various uses.
It is enjoyable when eaten raw or in soups, sauces, salad or even in juices and drinks. It is regarded as a super food because the health benefits are almost endless.
Improves vision: Vitamin A, present in tomatoes, helps to improve your eyesight as well as prevent night-blindness and macular degeneration.
Helps fight cancer: According to studies, tomatoes contain large amounts of the antioxidant lycopene, that is effective in lowering the risk of cancer, especially lung, stomach and prostrate cancers.
Maintaining blood health: Research suggests that a single tomato can provide about 40% of the daily vitamin C requirement and also contains vitamin A, potassium, and iron that are essential for maintaining normal blood health. Vitamin K, which controls bleeding and blood clotting, makes tomatoes help in blood circulation.
Reduces risk of heart disease: The lycopene in tomatoes can protect you against cardiovascular diseases. Consuming tomatoes regularly helps decrease the levels of cholesterol and triglyceride in the blood, reducing the deposition of fats in the blood vessels.
Good for digestion: Eating tomatoes daily can keep your digestive system healthy as it prevents both, constipation and diarrhoea. It also prevents jaundice and effectively removes toxins from the body.
According to the Women of Virtue [WOV] who had gone ahead to research into an effective means of tomato preservation, the preservation method outlined below can keep tomato for upward of one year. So let’s make hay while the sun shines. While we have abundance of this precious vegetable now, let’s preserve it for use in the days of scarcity.
Glass jars, no plastics
Step 1-Wash tomatoes, add salt and boil for three minutes.
Step 2-Blend tomatoes.
Step 3-Put the blended tomato in a pot and boil till very dry, though try not to let it burn.
Step 4-Let cool and then scoop into glass jar till full but leave at least an inch to the brim. Seal the jar properly with the cap.
Step 5-Put tomato filled glass jars in a pot of water till it is completely submerged. Boil for about 10-15 minutes.
Step 6-Bring jars out of water and allow to cool completely.
Step 7-Store in a cool, dark place like a cupboard away from light.
It is important that the jars are completely submerged in water during the boiling period. You can rest assured that as you boil the glass jars would not break.
Also, you should use glass jars like BAMA mayonnaise jars with twist on.
Ensure that you refrigerate, once a jar has been opened.