I hate tomatoes.
In fact, where tomatoes are concerned I morph into a picky 10 year old girl. If you’re a frequent reader, you’ve probably learned I am quite the foodie, and I love almost all foods.
Exceptions being: tomatoes, and bananas. Obviously I recognize the nutritional value of both, but I am SUPER picky with regard to tomatoes. I enjoy tomato sauces, and the flavors they have – but I will pick out large chunks. If tomatoes are cooked and in something I will most likely eat them, but if they are raw and on top of something or in something I will pick them out.
I do not cook with them often, but I will make my own tomato sauces with canned tomatoes if I have the time.
With all of that being said, I realize there are a great many individuals who love tomatoes (my mom), and utilize them year round, on top of that April 6 was National Tomato Day…. So here is a rundown on the types of tomatoes, selection, colors etc.
Tomatoes are typically in season in the summer months (June- August) my mom always has a surplus from her garden so if you want some call me.
Here are some common varieties of tomatoes:
-Beefsteak – these tomatoes are large, they can weigh close to a pound during peak growing months. As their name implies they are an extremely hearty tomato, they are going to work well from everything from a BLT to a Caprese. They have high water contents so they tend to fair better raw than cooked!
-Heirlooms- There is a lot of back and forth on what makes an heirloom and heirloom as they vary in size and shape, but from what I have read heirlooms must be bred with open air pollination. Apparently (again I would not know) heirloom tomatoes taste the most
-Romas (or plum tomatoes) – are perfect sauce tomatoes, they have thin skin, and few seeds
-Hothouse – these are a tossup, they are grown on the vine year round. I say they are a toss up because sometimes they are highly flavorful, and sometimes they will be just “meh”
-Mini’s (cherry, grape), as the “cherry” and “grape” monikers imply these are sweet(er) tomatoes, and they work well both cooked and raw. These make for a great “meal prep” snack as they can easily be washed and then stored to grab throughout the week. These are also the tomatoes you will find on vegetable party trays. As you can see below they come in a variety of small sizes and colors, using a variety of colors will naturally add some pizzazz to presentation.
Selection of tomatoes: Tomatoes should be dense for their size, and they should be firm. They should never be rock hard, nor overly soft/squishy.
Storing tomatoes: DO NOT refrigerate tomatoes, they will last about 2-3 days on the counter. If you need to ripen up one fast place one in a paper bag with some hole punched in it.
Nutrition-related reasons to eat tomatoes: they are sources potassium, Vitamin A,Vitamin C, vitamin b6, magnesium, and fiber.
Cooking tips: peel tomatoes that will be cooked for a substantial amount of time, as the peel will likely slip off during cooking and then the peel is just hanging out in your dish….if you care about that type of thing. Peel tomatoes too if you’re making salsa
Now, one of the reasons we buy tomatoes is to make tomato sauce!!! Which can be done with raw tomatoes or canned, and if you’re a boss like my mother you can your own fresh tomatoes, and use your canned tomatoes to make sauces.
Us mere mortals either make it from raw tomatoes, canned, or buy sauce in a jar.
I have made my own sauce before, and I was very pleased with how it turned out (again for a girl who hates tomatoes). If you make a sauce from fresh tomatoes, romas are the way to go for sauces that will be cooked over heat for a longer amount of time. Grape and cherry tomatoes are good for sauces that will be over heat for a short period of time. For either – try to remove as many seeds as you can as they can become bitter, and unpleasant tasting the longer they are exposed to heat.
If you elect to you canned tomatoes, I humbly recommend whole peeled tomatoes that are in their own juice. Many recipes call for crushed- in that instance you can simply cut/crush these tomatoes. When I make my own sauces I use these, and I put them in my food processor then add them to my sauted garlic, and olive oil (again I don’t like chunks).
Making your own sauces like this is not a very large undertaking – you can freeze some of what you make, and it is not incredibly time consuming. Making your own sauces is a fantastic way to also have more control over added salt and sugar in your cooking (control you give up when purchasing pre-made sauces).
And there you have it. What I hope is a helpful little guide for tomato buying, and using tomatoes.