Local Corn, Tomatoes Doing Well Despite Heat

From Liz Barbour, of the Creative Feast….

As we head toward the end of summer, our favorite local crops – corn and tomatoes – are finally available at our local farm stands. However, you might be wondering if the recent lack of rain and intense heat has had a negative effect on these crops.

This subject is a hot topic of conversation throughout the nation. The country has suffered the effects of extremely dry weather, but the Northeast, which includes New England and Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., has experienced a record-breaking heat wave.

The seven-month period through July experienced an average temperature of 49.9 degrees. While this sounds chilly compared with the 90-degree days we’ve been having lately, this number is an average of winter, spring and summer temperatures. Believe it or not, this seven-month period is the hottest on record since 1895.

How have the heat and lack of rain affected local produce? Trevor Hardy, of Brookdale Fruit Farm, reports that local farms are in one camp or the other.

Farmers without irrigation systems are, as Hardy put it, “at the will of Mother Nature” and have suffered much crop failure. Without adequate water supply, corn ears develop dry tips and become inedible. However, Hardy said farmers who have irrigation technology and “have been irrigating 24 hours a day for five weeks” are “in good standing.”

Hardy said the corn and tomato crops are expected to last through October and are in excess supply at the moment. The lack of rain may have even helped the tomato crop, as less water equates to fewer water-borne diseases.

Before the crop runs out, I recommend that you buy your fill of fresh tomatoes and corn, not only because they taste delicious but also because of their numerous health benefits.

First, let’s get something straight about tomatoes: Botanically, they’re fruits. Plants that have seeds are considered fruits, whereas plants such as carrots, broccoli and celery are considered vegetables because they’re the root, flower and stem of the plant. The reason we often label tomatoes as vegetables is because in 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled that farmers must pay the vegetable shipping tax for tomatoes rather than the fruit price; they’ve been known as vegetables ever since.

Tomatoes have other notable qualities. Their major attribute is the lycopene they contain. In addition to giving tomatoes their color, this nutrient helps fight cancer and improves the natural level of SPF in your skin. Lycopene also acts as an anti-inflammatory for your heart, meaning it helps prevent heart attacks and other heart disease. Tomatoes are also full of potassium, niacin, vitamin B6 and folate, all of which are good for your heart and help your body maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

The qualities of tomatoes are actually similar to those of corn, which also isn’t really a vegetable; in reality, it’s a grain. This summertime staple contains important carotenoids: beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin and lutein. Yellow corn has a much higher amount of these nutrients than does white corn.

These nutrients help diminish the number of damaging molecules in our bodies known as free radicals. Carotenoids help lower the risk of cancer and, like tomatoes, protect against heart disease. The lutein in corn helps maintain healthy vision; carrots, too, are known for containing this nutrient. Corn also is a source of fiber, which keeps you feeling fuller longer. And if you need another reason to eat some corn this summer, well, it just tastes good!

Fresh corn is known for having more flavor than corn in the offseason, so make sure to buy a few ears at your local market today.

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