What’s in Season: Tomatoes by Emily Weeks, RDN, LD (article and photography)

Tomatoes have been the subject of one of the world’s greatest debates. Are they fruits or vegetables? While technically classified as a fruit (a seed-bearing structure that develops from the fruit of a plant), tomatoes are considered a vegetable in modern cuisines because of its use in salads and savory dishes. Tomatoes, when perfectly ripe, are juicy, sweet, and great additions to any meal or snack. They’re great by themselves, too, sliced with just a sprinkle of salt!

What’s in Season: Tomatoes Plentiful during the summer months, tomatoes grow on vines and are at their freshest from May through October. Tomatoes come in thousands of varieties of all sorts of colors and shapes, the smallest being the grape tomato and the largest being the beefsteak tomato. Heirloom tomatoes have been popular lately due to their unique colors and shapes, and their intense tomato flavor. Heirloom tomatoes grow from seeds passed down from generation to generation, and over the years have developed natural resistance to insects and diseases.

When choosing tomatoes at the grocery store, look for slightly firm tomatoes with a rich red color. If you purchase pale red tomatoes, be sure to let them sit on the counter for a few days for them to ripen before eating. Ripe tomatoes will have a gentle give when squeezed. Never store tomatoes in the fridge—cold temperatures will significantly alter the flavor and texture of the tomato. Store tomatoes at room temperature on your kitchen counter, away from direct sunlight. 

Different culinary uses for varieties of tomatoes: 

  • Heirloom tomatoes: with a deeper flavor and sweetness than traditional tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes taste best when eaten raw. Simply slice and season with a dash of salt and pepper and enjoy.
  • Grape/cherry tomatoes: great size for skewers, or for a healthy snack. Grape tomatoes are also delicious halved in salads or roasted whole and added to pasta sauces.
  • Roma/plum tomatoes: juicy and sweet, plum tomatoes are great for pasta sauces and canning.
  • One-the-vine tomatoes: Sold still attached to their growing vine, these tomatoes hold their flavor better and have a longer shelf life. They usually hold up well to slicing, making them good for sandwiches and salads.
  • Beefsteak tomatoes: the largest variety of tomato, beefsteaks are firm and hold their shape when thinly sliced, making them perfect for sandwiches and burgers.
  • Green tomatoes: there are two types of green tomatoes, those that are green when ripe and green tomatoes that have not turned red yet. Green tomatoes are slightly sour, which makes them great for salsas and sauces. 

No matter which type of tomato you choose to use in your dishes, you’re sure to end up with a delicious and healthy result! 

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