Now that tomato is pricey

I want to say a big thank you to you all for the reception and feedback on the discussion about intermittent fasting. I keep getting text messages on the subject. A reader said, “I think this your teaching on fasting is one of the best”. Another reader confirms that the Ramadan fasting period is the time his blood pressure always reads 120/80. What will make me happier is if more people try it. Trust me, your health will thank you.

A feeling of reluctance always envelopes me each time I have to pass a message across and it involves the use of religious anecdotes. However, I am happy that I have understanding readers who know that whatever is said is to ginger us all to take our health seriously and not that I am preaching religion. Please, permit me to share a story with you.

I have a friend on Facebook who is a lady evangelist and we have been friends for about six years. She got married after we became friends. Sometime last year, she posted her picture and my eye caught the hair growth on her chin and I said to myself that this woman was suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). I was sure of this because apart from the hair on her chin, she was also overweight. The two symptoms (overweight and hair growth) are part of the symptoms you identify in a woman who has PCOS.

So, about a month ago, she posted another picture of herself heavily pregnant and announced that she just had her baby. I was extremely happy. Day after day, she posted all she went through to achieve conception. It was a terrible experience because she had several miscarriages and even for the pregnancy she carried to term, she went through a lot and was even on insulin during the pregnancy.

Now, for anyone in her position and even some people around her, except her doctor, they will see everything as a spiritual attack. But the truth is that everything she went through is all that a PCOS patient will go through. With PCOS, it is difficult to achieve pregnancy and even when it is achieved, miscarriages do occur. PCOS sufferers also have insulin resistance, which explains why she was on insulin during the pregnancy. This is also the reason PCOS sufferers are placed on a popular diabetic medication.

While we were on foods and herbs to manage some diseases series, I talked about PCOS briefly when it was the turn of female infertility; it is a hormonal disorder. In women with PCOS, the hormonal imbalance interferes with the growth and release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation). Someday, I may discuss it fully.

From the foregoing, what I am driving at is that your spirituality does not guarantee immunity against diseases especially when such diseases are caused by wrong lifestyle choices and over-indulgence in unhealthy diets. Your spirituality and obedience to health rules are like two parallel lines that can never meet. There are always consequences when health rules are broken. If your health challenge is caused by being overweight, for example, prayers will not do anything. What will work for you is weight loss! In life, some principles cannot just be broken.

On a lighter note, how have you been coping with the rise in the prices of tomatoes? Tomato dearth is a yearly occurrence and the truth is that tomatoes and the rainy season are sworn enemies. Apart from this scarcity, there are people who are allergic to tomatoes. So, let us look at tomato substitutes.

The first one is Trichosanthes cucumerina. The common names include snake gourd, serpent gourd and snake tomato. The Yoruba call it “tomato elejo”. The first time I came across it was in the 80s. It was planted in my maternal grandmother’s house. The fruit is narrow, twisted and elongated; that explains the “snake” in its name. The bright red pulp around the mature seeds inside the fruit is extracted and used in cooking in the same way that tomatoes are used.

Let us travel across the three ethnic groups and see some of the soups that can be cooked without tomatoes. For the Yoruba, now that new yam is in season, garden eggs are also in season. Yam can be eaten with garden egg stew. It does not need tomato. Egusi, gbegiri and ila alasepo do not need tomato. Vegetables are in season but a lot of people do not like eating them. This is an opportunity to reap their health benefits. There are vegetables like water leaf (gbure), efo tete, efo shoko, efo amunututu, efo ebolo, efo yanrin, efo igbagba and lots more. The good thing is that their stew base does not need tomato. All you need is habanero pepper (ata rodo) and lots of onions. For the Igbo, ogbono, ofe achara, okazi, oha, ofe nsala, banga, ofe oweri, ofe onugbu do not need tomatoes. The Hausa have miyan kuka, miyan karkashi, miyan kubewa, miyan gyada, miyan taushe, among others.

Carrots are used in place of tomatoes now. All you have to do is to blend the carrot and sieve it to extract the juice (you can drink it). The chaff is what you will grind with your pepper. The reason for extracting the water is to avoid carrot sweetness in your soup/stew. Unripe mangoes can be used. They have a sour taste when unripe and can give the tartness tomatoes will give to your soup/stew. Red bell peppers (tatase), in particular, have a very similar flavour and colour to tomatoes. They may not be as sour as tomatoes, but they can work well as a substitute in both raw and cooked recipes.

Some people use cucumber, pawpaw and pumpkin (elegede). Watermelon should be great too; the only problem is that your stew will be sweet. However, if the watermelon is not extremely ripe, it should make a good substitute. Makers of tomato pastes are smiling to the bank now because they are high in demand. I am not a fan though. I prefer homemade tomato paste. Vinegar is responsible for ketchup’s tanginess. If that is the flavour note you are after, you can add apple cider vinegar (ACV) to these substitutes to achieve the signature tangy taste of tomatoes.

Certain spices can give the same colour and flavour to recipes as tomatoes do. Though spices might not work in all recipes where you need a substitute for tomatoes, they can work for certain recipes. For instance, if you are looking for a substitute that will give a red colour to food, you can try using paprika powder.

While preparing this article, different ideas came into my head and I will like to share them. When tomato is in season, you can make tomato pastes and store them in your freezer. I have links to videos on how to prepare homemade tomato pastes. Interested persons should chat me up so I can send the links to them. Another way is to get a dehydrator to dehydrate your tomatoes. When dried, you will blend and store the powder.

No one has ever died for not eating tomatoes. Let us enjoy all these substitutes we have identified.

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