The season of the fresh tomato is just about to hit in Michigan.
I don't know about you, but I wait all year long for this.
There is just no comparing a bland grocery store tomato with fresh, local varieties plucked straight off the vine.
Here is a bit of tomato 101 for you...
There are both hybrid varities and open-pollinated/heirloom varieties.
Hybrids are bred in nurseries and will not reproduce true from seed the next year (Don't waste time seed-saving. You don't know what will grow.) while open-pollinated/heirloom varieties will reproduce true from seed. (You can save the seeds, plant them and they should grow into exactly the type of tomato you got them from.)
Heirloom tomatoes are old-fashioned, open-pollinated varieties that have been around for generations.
Heirlooms are generally regarded as the tastiest type of tomato available.
They are also fragile and hard to transport long distances making them undesirable for commercial farmers to grow. Because of this they are rarer and command a higher price.
Now if you, like me, have been anticipating these beauties showing up at farmstands and farmer's markets all over the area, I've got some helpful tips to guide you to your version of tomato heaven!
1. The size of the tomato doesn't dictate it's flavor, texture or quality. Choose a size that works for your intented use! That being said...
2. Decide what you want to use your tomatoes for and choose accordingly.
- Grape and cherry tomatoes are small and sweet. Because of their size they are best used to garnish salads, fill appitizer trays and top hors d'oeuvres.
- Roma, paste or plum tomatoes are perfect for making sauces, soups and mixing with meat dishes. They are smaller and firm. They have thick, meaty flesh and are less juicy and seeded then other varieties making it easier to cook them down faster.
- Beefsteaks- the big boys of the tomato world- are what you want for sandwiches, burgers, making into salsa and for stuffing. Are you getting hungry yet? I am!
3. Don't squeeze a potential purchase. Instead pick it up and rest it in your palm. Does it feel heavy for it's size? It should.
4. Smell the tomato. A fresh tomato should have an earthy, slightly sweetish smell. The stonger the tomato smells, the more tasty it will be.
5. Inspect the tomato. Make sure it is free of bruises, or deep cracks. Heirlooms are fragile and are not bred to be uniformly shaped but bruises, deep cracks or holes indicate a tomato that isn't any good.
6.. Purchase tomatoes as you need them. Plan on using them with in a couple days of purchase as tomatoes continue to ripen off the vine.
7. Store tomatoes at room temperature on a plate. Do not put them in a plastic bag or in the refrigerator.
8. When cutting into tomatoes use a knife with a serrated edge. Use a light-handed, sawing motion. This will prevent the downward pressure of force from squishing the tomato.
9. For the best health benefits don't peel that tomato! Tomato skin holds a high concentration of caretenoids (fat-soluble pigments of yellow, orange or red) and flavonols (another type of plant pigmentation). In plain speak... They're good for you!
10. You don't have to seed tomatoes. Some recipes call for this, but it is really up to you. All seeds affect is texture. They do not affect taste.
There you have it! These tips should take the mystery out of choosing, storing, and prepping tomatoes for an abundance of incredible uses.
Leave me a comment. I'd to know what your favorite tomato is!
Be sure to look for next week's blog... #2 in my 4 part tomato series! We'll dive into ten reasons to love tomatoes, even if you don't like them!
Bloom and Grow,