Tomatoes

Tomatoes: Fruit or Vegetable?

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Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? We bet that you did not guess that it’s both! Botanically considered to be a fruit, tomato is considered as a vegetable by nutritionists and usually eaten and prepared like one. Now with tomatoes back in season at the markets, let us tell you more about them.

There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes. The most common type of tomatoes are the red round tomatoes which can vary in size from 2 inches to much larger. Some other popular varieties include marble-sized grape or cherry tomatoes, juicy salad tomatoes, dense Italian plum roma tomatoes, meaty paste tomatoes, and huge, sweet, beefsteak tomatoes. Their colors range from deep crimson to orange, yellow, green, purple, and chocolate. While we’re on the subject of tomatoes, it’s also important to know the distinction between Hybrid and Heirloom tomato varieties. Hybrid tomatoes are bred for higher yields, disease resistance, ease of harvesting, or extended shelf life while heirloom tomatoes prized for their superior flavor and excellent performance under local conditions, are “open pollinated” or reproduced true to form from saved seeds. To know more about the varieties of tomatoes, please click here. 

Lycopene, the pigment that gives tomatoes their red color and is also an antioxidant that promotes heart health which keeps the immune system healthy. Lycopene is found in the highest concentration in tomato products such as ketchup, tomato juice, tomato paste, tomato sauces, etc. But since these products are usually consumed in small amounts, it’s recommended to consume whole, fresh tomatoes whenever possible. 

When picking out the best tomatoes at our markets there are certain things to look for. You should look for a deep, consistent coloring and a sweet, earthy smell. The stronger the smell, the more flavor the tomato will have. You can also try resting the tomato in the palm of your hand. If it feels heavy for its weight, then you’ve got a winner. Resist pinching or squeezing the tomato as it may bruise it.


Tips to store and preserve tomatoes

While tomatoes are delicious fresh they can also be preserved in multiple ways.

Storage

If you’ve bought unripe, green tomatoes, it’s best to store them stem-side down in a paper bag or a cardboard box in a cool spot until they become red. Perfectly ripe tomatoes should be stored at room temperature, ideally stem-side up in a single layer away from the sunlight. You can extend the shelf life of overripe tomatoes by 3- 4 days by placing them in the fridge. Just make sure you bring the tomatoes to room temperature before using them to allow them to regain flavor lost due to refrigeration.

Canning

When it comes to canning tomatoes, the most common type of tomato used are Roma tomatoes, which are oval in shape with the same color as red round tomatoes. To get more details of how to can tomatoes, please click here.

Freezing

In regards to preserving tomatoes the most common method is freezing the tomatoes. For freezing tomatoes, all you have to do is thoroughly wash the fruit, remove the stem, keep them whole or chop them then store it in a tightly sealed container or plastic bag. After freezing tomatoes it’s best to use them within eight months in cooked dishes.

Drying

When it comes to drying, it’s best to use meaty, ripe, good-colored tomatoes. To get more details of how you can dry tomatoes, please click here.

To find out where you can find tomatoes at the markets, check out our blog for a complete list of vendors that sell it!

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Garlic Tomato Bruschetta

Adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients

¼ cup of olive oil

¼ tsp of freshly ground black pepper

½ tsp of salt

4 medium tomatoes, diced

2 tbsp of Parmigiano-Reggiano

3 tbsp of chopped basil

6 garlic cloves, minced

½  cup of softened butter

2 tbsp of parsley, chopped

French bread

Preparation

In a large bowl, combine oil, basil, 4 garlic cloves, salt, and pepper. Add tomatoes and toss gently. Sprinkle with cheese. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Mix softened butter, 2 garlic cloves, and parsley to make garlic butter. Spread garlic butter on toast and pop it into the oven. 

Bring to room temperature before serving. Top with tomato mixture. Serve immediately.

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RecipesLiz Connor