How to Select and Cook With Tomatoes

  • 01 of 10

    All About Tomatoes

    Different heirloom tomatoes in a wire basket
    Westend61 / Getty Images

    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.

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  • 02 of 10

    How to Choose the Best Tomatoes

    Delicious costoluto genovese tomato
    Sunlight19 / Getty Images

    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 we can't guarantee these tips will forever save you from such a fate, they should keep such incidences to a bare minimum.

    1. Look: Don't worry about oddly-shaped tomatoes. Even cracked skin is okay, but leaking juice and soft spots are not.
    2. Feel: Choose tomatoes that feel heavy for their size.
    3. Smell: Tomatoes should smell earthy and tomatoey, never musty or flat.
    4. 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, we fear people sometimes lose sight of the most important indicators of a tasty tomato. The best tomatoes tend to be:

    1. 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. 
    2. 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).
    3. Locally grown, because tomatoes grown as outlined above are delicate creatures not up for long voyages.
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  • 03 of 10

    Tomato Varieties

    Ripe fresh tomatoes
    Natasha Breen / Getty Images

    Gone are the days when tomatoes were necessarily red and beefsteak—although we'd never refuse a well-grown, perfectly ripe sliced beefsteak tomato sprinkled with salt!

    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 choices for making sauce. Many green varieties have a milder flavor, but may be perfect for a salad that needs a lighter hit of "tomato" flavor. 

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  • 04 of 10

    The Best Way to Store Tomatoes at Home

    Heirloom Tomatoes
    Molly Watson

    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. 

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  • 05 of 10

    Simply Stunning Summer Tomato Salads

    Close-up of Caprese Salad
    Joanna Gorzelinska / EyeEm / Getty Images

     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. 

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  • 06 of 10

    Quick & Easy Recipes Featuring Raw Tomatoes

    Corn, Bean, Tomato Pasta
    Molly Watson

    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:

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  • 07 of 10

    Easy Summertime Cooked Tomato Recipes

    Burst Tomatoes
    Molly Watson

    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.

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  • 08 of 10

    Turn Those Tomatoes Into Sauce!

    Classic homemade tomato sauce in the pan on a wooden chopping board on brown background, top view. Pasta, pizza tomato sauce. Vegetarian food
    OksanaKiian / Getty Images

    There are more tomato sauces to make in this life than there are dreams to dream. Give a try to one of these delicious and versatile sauces:

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  • 09 of 10

    Keep That Great Tomato Flavor Around a Bit Longer

    Tomato Paste
    Molly Watson

     Extend the tomato season with these recipes:

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  • 10 of 10

    How to Grow Your Own Tomatoes

    Tomatoes on the Vine
    Louise Heusinkveld/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

    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. Give tomatoes a chance in your backyard or kitchen garden.