Types of Tomatoes: Bounty From Your Garden
Home gardens are more popular than ever, thanks in part to a poor economy and rising popularity of organic foods. Not surprisingly, the most popular vegetable garden plant of all? Tomatoes. Big and small, yellow and red, the tomato is the supreme queen of the summer garden.
While there are many different types of tomatoes, they all can easily be classified into five main categories: extra-large, salad, sauces, minis and specialties.
No matter what types of tomatoes you plant, most first-time home gardeners do not realize the bounty that a single tomato plant can produce if cultivated carefully during the growing season. Here are some creative ideas and recipes for utilizing every bit of this summer's tomato crop.
EXTRA-LARGE TOMATO RECIPES
Varieties: Beefsteak, Big Boy, Giant Belgium, etc.
These tomato varieties generally have a relatively small pulp cavity which, combined with their large size, make them the ideal for slicing.
- Grill'em Up - Halved and grilled with some basil infused olive oil, this is the perfect summer accompaniment to a nice grilled steak.
- Stuffed and Baked - Add a little rosemary, garlic and olive oil and you have the perfect partner for your favorite chicken recipe.
- Stack It - Emeril certainly had the right idea when he layered the tomato slices with onions and roquefort cheese and topped it off with some balsamic vinegar.
- Get'em While They're Green - Can't wait for them to ripen? Bread them and fry them and you'll have a simple dish that even Jessica Tandy would be proud of.
SALAD TOMATO RECIPES
Varieties: Early Girl, Longkeeper, etc.
The excessive amount of pulp and seeds in these tomatoes don't make these good candidates for cooked dishes. But they are perfect for cutting into quarters and adding to a fresh tossed salad.
- Simple Tomato Salad - This fresh mixture of chopped tomatoes, feta cheese and red onions is sure to be a summertime favorite.
- Insalata Caprese - Simple layers of tomato slices, fresh mozzerella and basil will delight and impress everyone.
- Bacon and Tomato Salad - Everyone is sure to love this jazzed up version of America's favorite sandwich, the BLT.
- Fettucine Tomato Basil Salad - Fettucine, shredded parmesan cheese and chopped tomatoes is a summer meal marriage made in heaven.
- Salsa - Although basic salsa consists of just 7 ingredients (tomatoes, cilantro, salt, onion, jalapenos, lime and garlic), there are many interesting versions. Pick your favorite, make it, eat it and can the rest so you can have a fresh bite of summer even in the winter months.
How to Make Fresh Salsa
Varieties: Plum or Roma.
These medium-sized tomato varieties are long and thin. They generally contain fewer seeds and pulp and have a firm flesh that reduces well when cooked that makes them just perfect for making Grandma's tomato sauce recipe.
- Sunday Gravy - That's what true Italians call their tomato sauce. They set it up on Sunday morning to simmer adding meatballs, sausage and a host of other delights to share with the family.
- Bruschetta - Tomato bruschetta is the perfect summertime snack. The topping can be made a few days ahead of time to let the flavors blend perfectly.
- Pizza Margherita - Fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzerella top a thin crust making this perfection in a pizza pie.
- DIY Sundried Tomatoes - Why buy these store-bought when you can make them yourself? You can also mimic the original by drying them in a very low, slow oven.
Varieties: Cherry, Grape, etc..
These tomatoes vary in size from pea-sized to 1" in diameter. Over the years, they have been bred to contain a high sugar ratio, making them perfect for snacking or adding some beautiful color to your summer salads.
- Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce - Cherry tomatoes already are high in sugar content, and roasting them makes them even sweeter, a perfect complement to the other ingredients in this delightful pasta dish.
- Corn and Cherry Tomato Salad - Just a little addition of Manchego cheese takes this summer salad to the next level.
- Spicy Avocado and Grape Tomato Salad - Add some corn and serve it as a salad or blend it up and it makes a fabulous salsa. Either way, this grape tomato recipe is packed with flavor.
- Shrimp and Grape Tomato Bucatini - You'd better double the recipe when making this dish as everyone will want seconds!
Varieties: Heirloom, San Marzano, etc.
Creative farmers and horticulturists over the years have developed many types of specialty tomatoes. The two well worth including in your repertoire are Heirloom and San Marzano. You'll never find San Marzano tomatoes in your garden, as they are only grown in Italy.
- Heirloom Tomato Salad - Utilizing several different colors of the heirloom tomatoes makes this a feast for the eyes as well as for the mouth.
- San Marzano Tomato Sauce - Don't be fooled by labels claiming "San Marzano style" tomatoes. Make sure the label includes the DOP emblem.
- Penne with San Marzano Tomatoes and Zucchini - A perfect pasta dish for any season, this is particularly good when the zucchini are picked fresh from the garden.