There are thousands of tomato varieties that come in a multitude of shapes, sizes, and colors. Did you know tomatoes are technically a fruit although they are often used as vegetables in recipes and cooking? Tomatoes have many health benefits and are packed with vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants, including beta-carotene and lycopene.
Organic tomatoes are available year-round at the Co-op, however, late summer is when local tomatoes are widely available and at their peak. With so many to choose from, we wanted to share our quick tomato guide for the six tomato varieties you can almost always find fresh in our produce departments.
1. Beefsteak Tomatoes
Beefsteak tomatoes are the quintessential tomato. They are large, meaty, and juicy. Beefsteak tomatoes have a mild, fresh tomato flavor. They are superior for salsa, sauces, and slicing. No BLT is complete without a slice of beefsteak tomato.
2. Cherry Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are generally smaller than other available tomatoes, round in shape, and look like their namesake, the cherry fruit. Cherry tomatoes delight in color ranging from traditional red to purple. They taste sweet and are juicy. Cherry tomatoes can be cooked, grilled, sauced, and dehydrated. Of course, cherry tomatoes are delicious raw in salads or salsas.
3. Grape Tomatoes
Like cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes are smaller and—while available in other colors—are most commonly red. They are sweet with a little tanginess and maintain their texture and structure well. They are great for cooking and roasting and hold their own as accompaniments to proteins such as fish, chicken, or beef.
4. Heirloom Tomatoes
The seeds are what make an heirloom tomato an heirloom. The original plant must have generated the seeds traceable back to at least 1951, the year hybrid (intentionally cross-pollinated) varieties became widely available to gardeners. Many of the varieties we enjoy today are more than 100 years old! Heirloom tomatoes are also often open-pollinated, which means that they are pollinated naturally by birds, insects, the wind, or human hands. Heirloom tomatoes come in a wide range of sizes and colors. They are sweet, luxurious, and rich in flavor making them best eaten raw in salads or side dishes. Envision a classic caprese salad.
5. Roma Tomatoes
Roma tomatoes are traditional Italian plum tomatoes. They are full of flavor with a tangy, fresh taste. Roma tomatoes are meaty and versatile. They are ideal for making sauces, stews, and tomato pastes.
6. Tomatoes on the Vine
Tomatoes on the vine are left on the vine to fully ripen. You will see them still on their vines in the Co-op’s produce departments. They are medium sized, deep red colored, and taste sweet and juicy. Tomatoes on the vine are versatile and can be eaten raw, used for cooking, and even made into sauces and salsas.