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Size Matters: Tips and Tricks for Choosing the Best Tomato for the Recipe

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Tomato time is upon us (hooray).
Pick your passion and store them right.

[caption id="attachment_11892" align="alignnone" width="900"]Photo by Tim Hussey Golden, Green, and Red Heirloom Tomatoes[/caption]
Heirloom Tomatoes. Photo by Tim Hussey

Tomato Types

Tomatoes can be as small as a pea and as large as a grapefruit, and all have uses in the kitchen. For instance, eating a tomato sandwich on white bread while the juice rolls down your arm calls for a good slicing tomato. On the other hand, cherry tomatoes will not give you the sandwich of your dreams but are perfect on shish-kebobs. 

Photo by Rinne Allen
Peach and Tomato Salad. Photo by Rinne Allen

Cherry and Grape Tomatoes.

The novice gardener’s friend. They are the first to ripen in the summer and usually ripen before their delicate skin has had time to split or the ends have had opportunity to rot. They are ideal for grilling or sliced in salads.

Recommended Recipes: Peach and Tomato Salad

Paste tomatoes.

A step up in size from cherry tomatoes. They are considered paste tomatoes because they have a firm, dense texture, smaller juice-filled seed cavities than other varieties, and more pulp and less juice. They are an excellent choice for salsas, pasta sauces, and homemade ketchups and other condiments. Roma, San Marzano, and Bellstar are common examples of paste tomatoes.

Recommended Recipes: Hugo’s Salsa Mexicana

Photo by Jennifer Hitchcock
Leoci's Caprese Salad. Photo by Jennifer Hitchcock

Slicing Tomatoes.

The big boys of the garden. There are medium sized varieties like the Black Krim, but others like Beefsteak and Porterhouse can grow to be a whopping four pounds. They are go-tos for topping BLT’s and burgers, and their juicy texture make them a welcome addition to salads.

Recommended Recipes: Leoci’s Caprese Salad

Flavor Profiles

Photo by Tim Hussey
Heirloom Tomatoes. Photo by Tim Hussey

Tomatoes have varying levels of sugar and acid and although red is the most common, tomato colors vary from red, orange, pink, white, green, purple and black. The color of the fruit is determined by the color of the flesh and skin. For example, pink and red tomatoes have a similar pink flesh but pink tomatoes have a clear skin and a red tomato’s skin is yellow giving the tomato a red color.

RED Higher in acid with a sharper bite.
YELLOW Highest in sugar making them taste the sweetest.
PINK The acid from the red blends with the sweetness from the yellow.
PURPLE Sweet with an earthy flavor.
GREEN Firm, dry, and sour in taste.

How to Store

It’s best if you purchase vine-ripened varieties (or grow your own), and if you do, buy or pick the ripest you can and use within two days. 

Stem side down. Tomatoes release oxygen through their stem and so storing them stem side down reduces oxidation and thereby extends the life of the tomato.

At room temp. Any tomato aficionado will tell you not store tomatoes in the refrigerator. Tomatoes stored at temperatures below 55 degrees will dry out and lose flavor and develop the mealy texture characteristic of so many store-bought tomatoes.

More Tomato Recipes

Classic Tomato Pie
Fried Green Tomatoes
Tomato Toast
Pimento Cheese Fritters with Green Tomato Jam
Tomato Cracker Salad