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EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
Seasonal Snippet: Tomatoes Galore

Seasonal Snippet: Tomatoes Galore

Contributed by Katy Morris

There’s nothing like perfectly vine ripened local tomatoes eaten with nothing but a dash of salt and a drizzle of your favorite olive oil.

Did you know that there are over 10,000 varieties that range in color from pink and white to black and purple? And did you know that this beloved summer crop, bursting with refreshing flavor and most commonly associated with savory dishes, is actually a fruit?

A fruit?  Really?

 Scientifically, yes, a tomato is indeed a fruit. In fact, it used to be called the Peruvian apple due to where it originated. Now, all you gardeners out there know that by definition, fruit is the ripened ovary of a plant that encompasses a pit or seed; so yes, tomatoes are fruits! Back in the 1890’s, the US Supreme Court officially labeled them vegetables for tax purposes.

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I didn’t know there were 10,000 kinds! 

While it might seem overwhelming, the most popular ones out there are the beefsteak, plum, cherry and yellow, all of which can be found growing right here in New England this time of year. Note that the well-known heirloom tomato simply refers to a non-hybrid variety that has been passed down for generations and encompasses a whole family of other variations.

 

  • Beefsteak: As the name indicates, these are the larger, beefier ones that we usually slice up and eat raw to put on a burger after firing up the grill.

 

  • Plum: Oval-shaped (or obviously, plum-shaped) plum tomatoes are often referred to as paste or Roma tomatoes, as they are dense and hence most commonly used when making sauces.

 

  • Cherry: These sweet-tasting tomatoes are the best and most flavorful when they are a deep red color. We particularly love them tossed in salads (what’s better than when these bite-sized tomatoes burst in your mouth?!) or oven-roasted.

sea of tomatoes

  • Yellow: Yellow tomatoes have less acid than their red counterparts and have thinner skin and thicker juice. They add a good tangy taste to salads and are great roasted or in sauces.

 

There are really black tomatoes out there?

black tomatoes

 

We were surprised too! We knew about purple carrots and white asparagus – but black tomatoes?

This is a pretty new variety and probably hard to find in local markets at this point. Be on the look-out as these tomatoes are said to have impressively high antioxidant levels.

Here’s a quick run down on the different colors of tomatoes: Green tomatoes are lower in acidity than red ones but still have a strong flavor. Dark purple/black tomatoes will have a smoky flavor. White ones, as you might have guessed, are blander. Pinks are quite similar to reds.

into the bowl

Speaking of color, did you know that lycopene (that fantastic antioxidant that makes tomatoes so healthy) is what makes tomatoes so red? Yep! The redder the tomato, the higher its content of lycopene so keep that health fact in mind when buying.

 

What else should I look for when selecting tomatoes?

 We don’t have to tell you that buying local is your best bet for optimal produce, and when it comes to tomatoes, it’s the same story.

tomatoes

Hopefully, the tomatoes sold at your local farmers’ market will be at peak ripeness. Tomatoes become more flavorful as they ripen on the vine, and most local farmers are masters when it comes to choosing the right time to pick them and bring them straight to the market to give us that fresh, juicy tomato flavor we love.

 

  • Appearance: You want your tomatoes to be firm, smooth, unblemished and have a deep, vibrant color. Bruised, softened ones should generally be avoided. If you see some oddly shaped ones, these usually just mean they ripened in the sun at a weird angle and shouldn’t change the taste as long as they were able to ripen fully on the vine.
  • Smell: The fragrance of a tomato is true to its flavor. Fresh smelling, ‘garden-y’ aroma is what you want.
  • Feel: Tomatoes are sensitive little guys so be sure to handle them with care. When held in your hand, the ones that feel heavier than you’d initially expect are the ones to go after.

 all sorts on a plate

What about storage?

Place them on your counter and you are done. Refrigeration (cold temperatures in general) causes tomatoes to lose their flavor and overall essence so please, don’t even think about it.

 

Tips for preparation?

Wash them well with cold water. If you are going to be using them in a salad or sandwich and want to keep the seeds in tact, we recommend cutting them vertically. If the recipe calls for them to be peeled, we recommend blanching them similar to how we described it in last month’s peach post.

chopped

How can I make them last?

You can preserve these great summer tomatoes by creating your own sundried stockpile. Buying sundried tomatoes gets expensive, so why not just make your own at home?

Here’s how to make sundried tomatoes:

If you have a dehydrator, great, but if not simply fire up the oven to about 170 degrees. Cut them lengthwise (it is your choice whether to remove the seeds or not; sometimes the seeds can slow down the drying process) and then place evenly on a baking sheet. We like to sprinkle some olive oil, fresh basil, thyme, and a bit of salt & pepper on top for added flavor. Turn the tomato slices about every three hours until they have that leathery texture – this usually takes about 9-12 hours (varies depending on the tomato variety and hence water content). When done, you can let them cool in a plastic ziplock bag in the fridge or another cool, dark place.

Union Sq

Want to pick your own? Check out the farm closest to you here.

Keep on scrolling to find my favorite peak of season Tomato Soup with Sour Cream (or Yogurt) and Chile Peppers. SO easy!

 

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