The shape of tomatoes varies widely between varieties, from tiny pear-shaped tomatoes to huge ribbed tomatoes. Tomatoes increase in weight as they ripen and get heavier even after being harvested. Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C and a good source of potassium, fiber and vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene.
Buying & Storing
Tomatoes generally fall into three categories: slicing round tomatoes, plum/Roma tomatoes, and small cherry tomatoes. Slicing tomatoes vary greatly in size but tend to hold more juice and seeds. They are delicious when eaten raw. Plum or Roma tomatoes are small to medium sized and are excellent for sauces, canning, and making pizzas because they have a higher flesh-to-seed ratio. Small cherry-type tomatoes are generally served whole, and can also be cut in half for salads or sautéed dishes. Cherry tomatoes contain a lot of seeds and juice, but that’s what makes biting into them so enjoyable…that explosion of flavor and burst of juice. All categories of tomatoes can come in a wide range of colors – red, orange, purple, black, pink, yellow, white and multi-colored!
Fresh ripe tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. Refrigeration makes tomatoes tasteless and turns the flesh to mealy mush. Store tomatoes at room temperature for 3-5 days in an area away from direct sunlight. Sunlight hastens the ripening process.
Refrigerate only extra-ripe tomatoes to keep from ripening any further. To ripen tomatoes that were harvested while unripe, place them in a paper bag, stem end up. Punch several holes all around the bag and fold the top over. Check tomatoes daily for ripeness, typically between 1-5 days.
Freeze tomatoes whole for long-term storage. Core tomatoes, place them on wax or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, place in a freezer bag and put the bag in the freezer. Once frozen, tomatoes will only be suitable for saucing or purees as the flesh will have broken down from the freezing and thawing process.
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Preparation – Rinse tomatoes under cold water and gently wipe them dry. Use a serrated knife and remove the tough spot where the stem meets the fruit, also known as the core, and any damaged areas. To seed tomatoes, cut the tomato in half horizontally. Hold half in the palm of your hand, squeeze out the jelly-like juice and seeds over a strainer, and scoop out remaining seeds. Use the juice for another recipe or as a drink.
To remove the skin of a tomato, de-core the tomato and cut an x into the skin on the bottom. Submerge the whole tomato in boiling water for 15-60 seconds, lift out with a slotted spoon, and then drop in a bowl of ice water. Once the tomatoes have cooled completely, peel the skin off in sections starting near the X. The skin should come off easily.
Raw – fresh tomatoes off the vine are best when eaten raw. Slice or dice them for sandwiches, salads, and salsas. Puree them for juices or cold soups. Or, just eat plain with a little salt.
Saucing – peel tomatoes and add to sautéed carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Add spices and season as desired. Leave the sauce chunky or use a food processor or immersion blender to make the sauce smooth.
Sauté – place whole cherry tomatoes in stir-fry right at the end to lightly sear the outside. They add delicious bursts of umami flavor to any dish. You can also remove the seeds, dice the tomato, and sauté for use in omelets and frittatas, pasta dishes, rice dishes, or to top fish or meat.
Roast – cut tomatoes in slices or wedges and place on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and roast at 450°F for 20-30 minutes. Smaller tomatoes may be roasted whole.
Grill – add whole, cherry, plum, or Roma tomatoes to kabobs, or place with other veggies in a grill basket or grilling pan. Large wedges of tomatoes can also be cooked on a grill using a grill pan with holes in the bottom of the pan that allows for them to cook with less risk of the pieces becoming soft and falling into the coals when moved.
Fry – slice green (unripe) tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices. Dip the slices into seasoned flour, in buttermilk or egg, and in seasoned cornmeal or panko bread crumbs. Fry tomatoes in a pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Flip after a few minutes once they’ve turned golden brown. Once both sides are golden, use a spatula to place them on a paper-towel-lined plate to remove any excess oil. Serve immediately.