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How to Pick and Prepare Tomatoes

Hybrid or heirloom, tomatoes are the perfect fresh ingredient to use in your recipes. Delicious in salads, sandwiches and main dishes, tomatoes are a "taste of summer." MORE+ LESS-

Tomato Varieties


Beefsteak tomatoes are large, irregularly shaped tomatoes that work well for slicing, and eating raw or cooked. 

Cherokee Purple : - A dusty pink tomato with a milk chocolate tint and a rich, smoky flavor said to be named after the Cherokee Indians, who originally grew them.

Pink Brandywine: - A favorite for salads, this rich, juicy tomato with a slightly spicy flavor and firm flesh was developed by Amish farmers in the 19th century.

Big Rainbow : - Very popular, this tomato is a vibrant yellow with red stripes and has a sweet flavor.

Roma Tomatoes

Roma tomatoes, also called plum, paste or Italian tomatoes, have an elongated shape and are great for cooking and making sauce and paste because when fully ripe they have fewer seeds and less water than other tomatoes.

Amish Paste: - An American heirloom, oblong-shaped tomato with a sweet flavor, originally grown in Wisconsin.

Olpaka: - A red, chili-shaped tomato with a sweet-tangy flavor.

Traditional Roma: - The classic sauce tomato, Roma is meaty, very rich in flavor and easy to peel.


Fresh tomatoes taste great in the Veggie Pita Pizza and Gazpacho Pasta Salad.

Medium Size

Medium-size tomatoes that usually grow to about the size of a tennis ball, these are perfect for slicing and eating as is.

Rutgers: - Perfect for slicing or canning, Rutgers is full of traditional heritage flavor.

Green Zebra: - A small tomato with green-and white-striped skin, green flesh and an acidic flavor.

Fourth of July: - A newer hybrid, this is usually the first tomato to ripen in the garden, usually by July 4 in any region.



Cherry tomatoes are small and round (about 1 inch), reminiscent of large cherries.  They are wonderful tossed in salads or stir-fries, used as garnishes or as a snack on their own. 

Currant: - Tiny pea-sized tomatoes with a sweet, fruity flavor. There are both red and yellow varieties.

Supersweet 100: - A hybrid, this salad tomato is usually grown under glass  It has a sweet, rich and well-balanced flavor.

Yellow Pear: - Small pear-shaped tomatoes with a mild, sweet flavor. They're great for snacking and also are available in a red variety.


Cherry tomatoes make great appetizers and grilled fare!  Try Grilled Shrimp and Scallop Kabobs or Avocado-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Also called heritage tomatoes, these old-fashioned, often-forgotten, non-hybrid varieties of tomato can be found in a wide assortment of colors, shapes, flavors and sizes.  Heirloom tomatoes have become increasingly popular and more readily available in recent years and can be very flavorful.

Tomato Harvest


Tomatoes taste best when are allowed to naturally ripened in the sun- ideally they ripen slowly on the plant so that their flavor can fully develop.   You can speed ripening by placing under-ripe tomatoes in a brown paper bag and closing for a day or two.

When purchasing, they should have a wonderful, sweet aroma.  Also look at the leafy, green tops:  the fresher they look, the better.

Store at room temperature, not in the refrigerator. Once temperatures go below 50ºF, the quality of tomatoes deteriorates - the pulp gets mushy and flavor is lost.  

To peel tomatoes, heat a large saucepan of water to boiling.  Carefully place the tomatoes in the boiling water for 15 to 20 seconds.  Transfer with a slotted spoon or tongs to cold water, then peel skins from the tomatoes.

To remove the core, cut a small circle around the stem end with a small knife and remove.

To remove seeds, cut the tomato crosswise in half and gently squeeze or spoon seeds into a bowl.  Although seeding a tomato may be beneficial to a recipe, remember that the seeds are the highest concentration of vitamin C and much of the flavor. 

To freeze fresh tomatoes, peel, seed and chop; do not drain.  Place tomatoes in plastic containers or plastic freezer bags, and freeze up to three months.  Use in recipes as you would canned tomatoes.

To roast a tomato, insert a long-handled fork into the tomato. Hold it over a gas or charcoal grill, turning the tomato until it is charred on all sides.  Let the tomato cool enough to handle, then remove the skin. 

Adding Tomatoes to Your Table


  • Dip vegetables and chips into salsa made from fresh chopped tomatoes, herbs and seasonings.
  • Add sliced tomatoes to grilled sandwiches.
  • Make a salad of tomato, cucumber, zucchini and corn - drizzle with your favorite dressing. 
  • Top pasta with chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil and cracked pepper.
  • Stuff a tomato with tuna or chicken salad.
  • Add cherry or grape tomatoes to your snacks menu.