Learn About Tomatoes

Author: Chef Toby

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What are Tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a type of fruit that originates from South America. They belong to the family of nightshade plants, along with peppers, eggplants, and potatoes. While they are technically a fruit, they are commonly prepared as a vegetable. There are many tomato varieties, such as Roma, Beefsteak, Grape, Cherry, and Brandywine. Depending on the variety, they range in size, from grape to softball size. The colors of tomatoes can range as well, and they can be green, yellow, pink, black, white,  purple, orange, purple, or red, which are the most common. Most fruits are round, with some varieties having large bumps or shoulders at the top. The skin of a tomato is thin and smooth, and the inside of the tomato is wet and slippery, with dozens of small, edible seeds inside, and a pale core at the top that can be removed. 

What do Tomatoes taste like?

A properly ripened tomato will be sweet, slightly tart, and mildly fruity. Some tomatoes will be more acidic than others. 

How do you eat Tomatoes?

Tomatoes are extremely versatile and are used all over the world, both raw and cooked. When the fruits are in their peak season, during the summer, they are delicious eaten sliced raw with salt and pepper. Raw tomatoes are commonly used in salads, sandwiches, and fresh salsas. A traditional raw tomato dish in Italian cuisine is bruschetta, diced tomatoes combined with garlic, oil, and other seasonings. Tomatoes are also cooked down and turned into sauces and soups, like marinara, tomato soup, and salsa for chips. These sauces can be used on pasta, tacos, pizza, and much more.

Pizza made with tomato sauce
Tomato sauce is commonly use on pizza.

Where can you buy Tomatoes?

Popular tomato varieties like plum and Roma tomatoes are available year-round at any grocery store. They are also processed into other goods like jarred sauces, pastes, soups, and pre-peeled canned tomatoes. 

Tomatoes can be processed into sauce.

How do you store Tomatoes?

Whole ripe tomatoes should be stored in the refrigerator for longer shelf life. Tomatoes that are not quite ripe yet can be stored at room temperature to encourage ripening. Fruits that become mushy or discolored should be thrown out. 

Pro Tip: If you need tomatoes to ripen quickly, you can store them in a brown paper bag with a banana or apple to speed up the ripening process 

Fun Fact About Tomatoes:

There are over 10,000 varieties of tomatoes.

Did you know?

In the Spanish city of Buñol, there is an annual event called “La Tomatina.” Every year, thousands of people gather to throw tomatoes at one another, making it the largest tomato fight in the world. It is usually celebrated on the last Wednesday of August. 

Recipes Using Tomatoes

No Peel Marinara Sauce 

This recipe is perfect for when the fruits are in season, and you have to use them up quickly. In a large stockpot or a dutch oven, heat olive oil. Add diced onion, sliced garlic, and saute until they are soft and slightly brown. Add tomatoes that have been sliced in quarters, and cook until they have softened. Once soft, carefully use a hand blender to blend the sauce to your desired texture. Add whole basil leaves, minced parsley, water, chicken bouillon, and simmer until the sauce is reduced to your liking. If it is too acidic, add a sprinkle of baking soda to balance the acidity! 

Alphabet Soup 

To make this soup, add tomatoes, onion, and a bit of water to a blender. Blend until smooth, and run it through a mesh strainer. In a saucepan, add olive oil and alphabet pasta. Fry the pasta until toasted and golden brown. Add in the tomato sauce, water, and chicken bouillon. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the pasta is fully cooked. 

Caprese Pasta Salad 

To make this pasta salad, cook a small pasta like bowtie or penne, drain, and set aside. In a large bowl, add the cooled pasta, stir in pesto sauce, diced fresh mozzarella, and diced tomatoes (or whole if they are small grape or cherry varieties.) Refrigerate for a few hours so that the pasta can absorb the flavors.

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