A guide to the season's most tantalizing tomatoes
Whether you grow your own or pick up a few at the farmers' market, here's a look at all the varieties and tastes.
Ready to hit the market in search of some great tomatoes this summer? Or thinking about expanding your garden next year? Here's a guide to some of the more common varieties and how to make the most of them.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
These are your big, red globe tomatoes. They can weigh in at a pound or more, with a six-inch diameter. They mix a tangy, acid bite with a touch of sweetness, creating a classic rich flavor.
"They're akin to a Burgundy," says Lawrence Davis-Hollander, author of the forthcoming book "Tomato: A Fresh-from-the-Vine Cookbook." ''Big, broad, lots of nice taste, but not as focused as some of the tomatoes that are less meaty."
These are juicy tomatoes, with lots of water. Beefsteaks come in more than 350 varieties. Brandywine is one of the most common varieties, but you might also come across Red Field Beauty, Soldacki, Cardinal, Matchless, or the Mortgage Lifter, which supposedly got its name because it helped its West Virginia propagator pay off his mortgage, Mr. Davis-Hollander says.
Often called "slicers" because of their size and meaty texture, these tomatoes are great stacked on a hamburger or BLT, or carved into wedges and sprinkled with salt. Or let them form the centerpiece of the meal.
"There's nothing like a big tomato on the center of your plate, or stuffed or served with balsamic and buffalo motz (mozzarella)," says Mark Toigo, a tomato specialist for Toigo Orchards in Shippensburg, Pa.
Think baby Beefsteaks. These uniformly round tomatoes are racquetball size, with a thick skin. They make a distinctive "pop" when bitten into. Prized throughout Europe and the Middle East for their rich flavor and juicy, explosive texture, their smaller size also makes them perfect for individual consumption.
Early Girl and Czech Bush varieties are relatively common. Sometimes called "saladettes," they make bite-sized wedges perfect for salads or snacking.
PLUMS OR ROMAS
The thick-walled, oblong plum tomato is synonymous with Italy. Known in supermarkets primarily as Roma tomatoes, these big-sweet, big-acid tomatoes are known for their chewy flesh and low water content. Which makes them perfect for tomato sauce.
These tomatoes also can be used for quick sautéed dishes or in fresh salads where you don't want excess moisture. They offer longer shelf life than moister tomatoes.
"Throw them in a basket, and this becomes your go-to tomato," Mr. Toigo says. "It's almost like an onion. That thing will stare at you for two weeks."
CHERRY AND OTHER TINY TOMATOES
Generally, the smaller the fruit, the bigger the sugar. That's one reason the tiny-tomato industry has boomed in recent years.