Tomatoes come in all different shapes and sizes, making them one of the more versatile fruits to cook with. Plus, they can be served hot or cold.
Tomatoes pack a hefty dose of vitamin C and adding them to your diet is an easy way to boost nutrient intake. Luckily for our immune system, there are few things you can’t do with tomatoes in the kitchen. Without tomatoes, we wouldn’t have beloved classics like marinara sauce or homemade salsa, but there’s a lot more you can do with this fruit.
For example, add them to Caprese salad or balsamic chicken, and use them as a garnish on these butternut squash tacos. From pureeing to chopping to grilling or roasting, tomatoes bring a fresh flavor to sauces and they also taste great as a stand-alone snack.
Here’s more info about how to shop them and the different types:
Red beefsteak tomatoes
This is your traditional tomato — large, plump, and round. You might slice them up for burgers and sandwiches or even grill them. Their flavor is mild but classic. Heirloom tomatoes are technically a type of beefsteak tomato.
Green beefsteak tomatoes
Very similar to red beefsteak tomatoes, but they are green and taste more tart, whereas the red variety brings more of the traditional tomato flavor profile.
These are small and round like the shape of cherries, and they taste sweeter the beefsteak tomatoes. They work great in salads, on skewers for grilling or snacking, and in Caprese salad. You can find them in yellow and orange as well as red. They can be confused with grape tomatoes which are also small and bite-size. However, they’re more oval and slightly tangier (though still sweet). Both varieties also usually the biggest hit with kids.
These are small and round tomatoes but are larger than a grape or cherry tomato (more like golf ball size). They have a similar flavor as the classic red beefsteak tomato but can be richer.
This variety is medium to larger in size, but more of an oval shape than a round shape, and a nice balance of both sweet and tangy. You might also see them referred to as plum tomatoes. Roma tomatoes are a popular choice for canning because of how firm they are and their lower water content compared to other varieties.
Heirloom tomatoes bring more of an earthy flavor to the table and their sweetness can vary. What makes them unique from other tomatoes is that they’re grown in an open-pollination setting without human intervention and their seeds have been preserved and passed down.
Tomatoes on the vine
Just as the name suggests, these are tomato clusters that are still on the vine. They hold their moisture well and usually taste pretty fresh.
According to the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), tomato season peaks from July to October, but you can also find them in April, May, and November.
Selecting and storing
When shopping for tomatoes, look for bright skin. You want them to feel full and heavy; that’s a sign of juicy tomatoes. If you smell the blossom end, you may also notice a robust tomato smell — another good sign. Of course, blemishes and wrinkled skin are bad signs.
As far as storing tomatoes, refrigeration and cold storage will slow the ripening process (best for just ripe or overripe tomatoes) while leaving them on the counter will speed it up. So if you need to ripen your tomatoes, leave them on the counter for a few days. If storing in the fridge, remove a few days before eating so they can return to room temp. This affects the enzyme activity that impacts the flavor.