I was pleasantly surprised to read an article titled “The Food That Cures Everything (Almost)” in an AARP Magazine several years ago. It was the tomato, certainly a life saver for our family during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
This food can be classified either as a fruit or vegetable and is supposed to guard against many maladies because of a primary nutrient behind tomatoes’ healing power called lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.
During my 89-year lifespan, I would rate tomato sauce as my favorite all-time food, whether on pasta, pizza, pasta e fagioli, etc. It certainly was the No. 1 food for my parents Giovanni and Carmela Lacivita. We planted 300 tomato plants, mainly of the plum or roma variety in our huge East Side garden.
Thick tomato sauce
My mother made 100-quart Mason jars of thick tomato sauce. Today I still buy quarts of tomato sauce regularly from LaRocca’s Pizza and Pasta Restaurant. I often tell Anna Ficorilli, the general owner, that I am at a loss without LaRocca’s spaghetti sauce.
In the spring I plant only several dozen tomato plants of different varieties.
I prefer sauce to fresh tomatoes. Living among all those tomatoes in our Great Depression survival garden, I had never eaten a fresh tomato until I came home from World War II at age 21. My relatives and friends love fresh tomatoes. Looking through a seed catalog, I find 300 different types of tomatoes and only 150 varieties of peppers.
In 2013 I am shooting for my 20th year of achieving 6-foot high (loaded with sweet peppers) plants. I give both tomatoes and peppers away, and the one thing I notice is that many people smell the tomatoes, but not the peppers. They tell me to smell the fragrance of the tomatoes. I can’t smell anything.
Michael J. Lacivita is a Youngstown retiree and member of the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame and Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame,