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.
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Cherry tomatoes run about an inch in diameter and traditionally are the most delicate and complex of the small tomatoes. Growers – and eaters – love the Sungold for its delicate orange tint and fruity, almost tropical flavor, says Josh Kirschenbaum, product development director for Territorial Seed Company in Cottage Grove, Ore.Skip to next paragraph
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The Juliet, which resembles a mini-plum tomato at roughly 2 inches long, is another favorite.
Grape tomatoes, named for their size and shape, have become grocery store standards and offer predictable, uniform sweetness.
Mini-tomatoes also can be pear- or teardrop-shaped and often come in red or yellow. These will have a slightly bland, more subtle flavor than grape or cherry tomatoes.
Currant tomatoes are about 1/4 inch in diameter and are intensely sweet. They have a flavor Kirschenbaum describes as "smoky." Fortunate shoppers may find white currants, tiny white tomatoes with a yellow blush.
Generally known as "snacking" tomatoes, mini-tomatoes are great skewered for shish kebabs or briefly sauteed for a pasta sauce.
Among the more exotic summer offerings are "black" tomatoes, which sport a deep purple color and run from plum size up to nearly a pound. They generally have a rich, almost salty taste, says Davis-Hollander.
The Cherokee Purple offers big flavor, as does the Black Krim, which is softer and juicier than the Cherokee. These tomatoes make beautiful caprese or tomato salad, and delicious salsa. Eat them simply, with minimal adornment, to preserve their nuanced flavors.
These super-juicy, gigantic tomatoes – up to 2 pounds – tend to be yellow with a red or orange blush, Davis-Hollander says. They have a big, fruity flavor with little of the acid associated with traditional tomato flavor.
"We're talking subtlety here," he says. Typical varieties might be Reginas, Big Rainbow, or German Stripe. Use them for a delicate tomato sauce or a beautiful salsa or salad presentation.
"Keep it simple," Davis-Hollander says. "You really want to eat the flavor."
GREEN, YELLOW, AND ORANGE TOMATOES
Green tomatoes – meaning those that ripen to a gentle shade of green – generally offer an almost spicy taste, Davis-Hollander says.
Among the most popular is the Green Zebra, a slightly firm tomato with yellow-green skin and purplish stripes that runs roughly 2 inches around. Aunt Ruby's German Greens are softer and can weigh in at a pound or more.
Yellow tomatoes tend to be sweeter and less acidic, with a generally mild flavor, Kirschenbaum says. The Pineapple and Gold Medal varieties, with their bright yellow outside and red-veined interior, are popular.
Orange tomatoes, like the Earl of Edgecombe and the Indian Moon, offer a rich orange color and mild fruity flavor, Davis-Hollander says, without the acidity associated with classic tomato flavor.
For all of these, bask in their colorful glory. Generally too mild to withstand much cooking, these tomatoes should be served raw on a platter, possibly drizzled with olive oil and salt.
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