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All About Tomatoes
Tomatoes are the poster vegetable - the cause célèbre, if you will - of seasonal and local eating. Finding tomatoes that taste like tomatoes may be the biggest single draw to farmers markets around the country. See here how to choose and use these summer gems.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
02 of 10
How to Choose the Best Tomatoes
How often have we all bought perfect looking tomatoes at the store only to bite into flavorless mush? Once is one time too often, quite frankly. While I can't guarantee these tips will forever save you from such a fate, they should keep such incidences to a bare minimum.
- Look Don't worry about tomatoes with weird shapes. Even cracked skin is okay, but leaking juice and soft spots are not.
- Feel Choose tomatoes that feel heavy for their size.
- Smell Tomatoes should smell earthy and tomato-y,... never musty or flat.
- Taste This is where farmers market shopping really pays off – you can often taste the tomatoes before you buy them.
Also, for all the hoopla around "heirloom" tomatoes, I fear people sometimes lose sight of the most important indicators of a tasty tomato. The best tomatoes tend to be:
Continue to 3 of 10 below.
- Dry-farmed, which means the tomato plants aren't watered after their flowers set, forcing the plants to work a bit harder to make the tomatoes and leading to better, deeper flavor. Learn more about dry-farming here.
- Vine-ripened, that is, the tomatoes were allowed to ripen on the vine before they were picked (not simply left on the vine when brought to the store).
- Locally grown, because tomatoes grown as outlined above are delicate creatures not up for long voyages.
03 of 10
Gone are the days when tomatoes were necessarily red and beefsteak (although I'd never refuse a well-grown, perfectly ripe sliced beefsteak tomato sprinkled with salt!). Find your favorite variety of tomato with these guides.
Note that different varieties have different strengths. Soft and juicy heirloom varieties may be best for simply slicing and serving with a sprinkle of salt; drier hybrid Romas or Early Girls are the better choice is... making sauce. Many green varieties have a milder flavor, but may be perfect for a salad that needs a lighter hit of "tomato" flavor.Continue to 4 of 10 below.
04 of 10
The Best Way to Store Tomatoes at Home
Treat tomatoes gently. Heirloom tomato varieties, in particular, tend to be quite fragile. So don't pile the tomatoes in a bag where their weight will squash one another, and always pluck vine-ripening tomatoes off their vines (or the vine stem off them) to avoid having the sharp vines poke holes in your precious cargo.
Above all never refrigerate tomatoes. Temperatures under 50°F turn tomatoes mushy and mealy.
Better to store them in a wide bowl at room temperature and use them quickly.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Simply Stunning Summer Tomato Salads
Sliced and salted or chopped and tossed into salads are an easy and delicious way to enjoy the wonderful flavor of really ripe and well-raised tomatoes.
- Basil, Corn, Tomato Salad
- Caprese Salad
- Cucumber, Corn, Tomato Salad
- Fattoush Salad
- Red Onion Tomato Salad
Craving still more? See these Tomato Salad Recipes for more.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
06 of 10
Quick & Easy Recipes Featuring Raw Tomatoes
Raw tomatoes are yummy in more than just salads. These recipes keep the bright flavor of perfectly ripe raw tomatoes at the forefront. Some of just plain no-cook recipes, while others have cooked elements while keeping the tomato absolutely fresh:Continue to 7 of 10 below.
07 of 10
Easy Summertime Cooked Tomato Recipes
Use these yummy recipes to get started cooking with tomatoes. These were all developed to take advantage of the bright flavor and ripeness of fresh, local tomatoes.Continue to 8 of 10 below.
08 of 10
Turn Those Tomatoes Into Sauce!
There are more tomato sauces to make in this life than there are dreams to dream. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but if you thought tomato sauce was tomato sauce, give one of these bad boys a try:Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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10 of 10
How to Grow Your Own Tomatoes
Now that's local! All the clichés about tomatoes warm from the sun from grandmother's garden can't take away from the fact that no tomato tastes quite as good as one fresh from the vine, eaten with your feet still standing on the soil covering the roots. See here how to grow your own organic tomatoes.