Tomatoes: The Best Ways to Pick Them, Cook Them, and Eat Them
What is there to say about ripe summer tomatoes that hasn’t been said already? More to the point: What isn’t silly to say when you could, instead, be eating a tomato? Not a winter tomato with icy innards, but a real, ripe, velvety summer tomato, maybe with a sprinkle of salt or a smear of mayo on white bread. But do you know the best little tomato hack for cherry tomatoes? Or the best knife ever for slicing them? Read on for all you need to know to be a tomato expert this summertime, plus dozens of recipes we love (it was so hard to choose!).
Is a Tomato a Fruit or a Vegetable?
Why do tomatoes come in for such scrutiny? They are, botanically speaking, a fruit, as they have seeds and emerge from the flower of a plant. But by this criteria, zucchini and bean pods are just as much fruit as tomatoes are! Tomatoes are botanically fruit, but in culinary terms, thanks to their relatively minimal sweetness, they are considered a vegetable. (Maybe it’s their juiciness and bright color that makes us want to treat them more like plums and peaches than squash.)
The Tomato Top 5
Five things you really must know if you love tomatoes as much as we do.
How to Choose the Best Tomato
When it comes to choosing good fresh tomatoes, it’s all about the smell. Look for tomatoes at the farmers market that are firm but also heavy, and that have a whiff of tomato aroma. Also look for tomatoes of different colors and shapes; part of what makes summer tomatoes so great is discovering new flavors and varietals of tomatoes.
Types of Tomatoes to Look For
Personally I love black tomatoes like the Black Krim. When I call a tomato “velvety,” this is what I mean: thin skin, so juicy, balanced acidity, a touch of sweetness. Read more about black tomatoes here: Summer Love: The ‘Black’ Tomato
What’s your favorite tomato variety?
My Absolute Favorite Tomato Knife
I’ve been using this smaller utility knife (we love utility knives here!), and it’s just the perfect tomato knife — not too big or heavy so it won’t crush delicate ripe tomatoes, but it has a sharp serrated edge that has stayed sharp for several years now. I reach for this knife all the time!
- ZWILLING J.A. Henckels Four Star 5.5-inch Serrated Prep Knife, $39.95 at Amazon
The Best Way to Store Fresh Tomatoes
Storing fresh tomatoes is simple but also a little bit different from the conventional advice you may have heard. Yes, tomatoes are best stored at room temperature, but cool room temperature. Keep whole ripe tomatoes out of the sun and in the coolest spot of your kitchen (a cool pantry or cupboard is ideal) with plenty of air ventilation and away from other fruits and vegetables. Once you cut those tomatoes, though, it’s best to refrigerate them.
The Best Ways to Eat Tomatoes
But after that you need to count down maybe the top classic ways to enjoy a really fresh summer tomato.
- In a sandwich: Like the Mozzacado, or the 1-Minute Tomato Sandwich in all its glory. Or maybe even a tomato grilled cheese sandwich. Personally I go straight for the classic Italian-style Tomato Mozzarella Sandwich.
- In a glorious salad: Like this Tomato Salad with Red Onion, Dill and Feta or this simple, perfect summer tomato salad. And here’s a great one for packed lunches: Tomato Chickpea Salad.
- In summer soup: Don’t forget gazpacho, like this classic version or this one too: Chilled Gazpacho Andaluz in the Style of Pedro Almodóvar.
Our Top 5 Tomato Caprese Recipes
Because let’s face it: Tomato and mozzarella belong together. Here’s the classic, plus some twists.
The Best Ways to Cook Tomatoes
So you are flush with tomatoes. How do you use them up? Want to cook or preserve a big batch of summer tomatoes? Start here.
The Best Ways to Use Up Leftover Tomatoes
Got too many tomatoes? The best thing to do with tomatoes that are about to go mushy or bad is to simmer them down into a sauce and cool it then freeze it. It will use up a lot of tomatoes and make you feel like an all-star champ! Here’s how to make tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes.
Another idea? Tomato butter! This is a simply ingenious yet easy idea that gives you a tangy orange butter for slapping on good bread. Pure heaven.
Can Dogs Eat Tomatoes?
First off, as always, consult your veterinarian if you want truly expert advice on what to feed your particular pet. Green tomatoes and tomato plants are not healthy or safe for dogs, and so keep them away. Fully ripe tomatoes are fine in moderation, but again! Best to ask your veterinarian before feeding human food to pets.
Our Top 20 Tomato Recipes
From canned to fresh, pasta to soup, here are 20 recipes that show why tomatoes are one of the best vegetables of all.
What’s your favorite recipe or use for tomatoes? Is there something you just can’t wait to do with tomatoes every summer?
31 Days of Vegetables: How to fall in love with vegetables in 31 days.How many of these splendid veg have you eaten this month? Take a look at the whole list and take our July challenge to eat every single one!