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The Right Tomato for the Ultimate Tomato Sandwich

Updated on March 20, 2013
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The Scrumptious, Melt in Your Mouth, Summer Lunch

The first time I suggested tomato sandwiches for lunch, my boyfriend gave me funny look and said, “What? Tomato and bread? That’s weird.” Clearly, he had been deprived of this delicious food experience as he was growing up, and I was quick to show him what he was missing. Now he and I are constantly on the lookout for good tomatoes to make tomato sandwiches.

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Ingredients

  • 1 large, ripe tomato
  • 2 slices 12 grain bread
  • mayonaise

Finding the Right Tomato

The key to a yummy tomato sandwich is to find the right tomato. Ideally, you will get the very best and freshest tomato by growing it yourself, but if you don't have a green thumb, or you live in an apartment that never sees the sun (like me!), you'll need to look around for a good tomato. At first, this takes patience and a little bit of luck because, unfortunately, most tomatoes found in the produce section of a grocery store taste like cardboard. Tomatoes picked after they began to turn red will continue to ripen, but tomatoes are often picked green and sprayed with ethanol to turn the tomato artificially red. These “fake” tomatoes are bland, and not ideal for any food, especially not your tomato sandwich. If possible, go to a local farmer’s market for produce, especially for tomatoes. Local farmers are usually interested in producing quality food that will keep their local customers returning. There are many factors which affect the taste of a tomato including the specific variety of the plant and how much the plant was watered as the fruit was developing.

If possible, choose a Brandywine tomato for your sandwich. The fruit of a Brandywine grows big and they’re also known for their big taste.

Some terms you’ll probably see when shopping for tomatoes:

Organic

When looking for any produce, keep in mind that an “organic” label does not equal better tasting or better quality product. It simply means that the farmer met the requirements of the USDA National Organic Program. While buying organic food is undoubtedly good for the environment, don’t assume that the Organic label magically improves the quality of the product.

Hot-House or Green House Tomatoes

These tomatoes have been grown in a greenhouse where the temperature and moisture can be closely regulated. Greenhouse tomatoes have come to have a bad reputation, but as long as the plants are watered properly, greenhouse tomatoes will be juicy and tasty. Too much water will cause the tomatoes to split, which means a loss of product for the farmer, but not enough water will lead to blander fruit.

On the Vine

For a long time I was suspicious that the label “on the vine” was simply a ploy to make the buyer think that they were buying vine ripened tomatoes (see below). I have to admit that I find many tomatoes on the vine for sale at the grocery store that are quite tasty. You’ll find tomatoes on the vine on groups of four or five, all connected to the same vine.

Field Tomatoes

Tomatoes grown in the field are exposed to all types of weather and pests, but as long as the farmer is attentive and the tomatoes are allowed to ripen on the vine, field tomatoes are a very good choice.

Vine Ripened

Ideally, it is the vine ripened tomato of certain varieties that will have the best taste. Vine ripened tomatoes should have already begun turning red on the vine when picked, and will continue to ripen naturally. However, I have seen tomatoes in the supermarket labeled as “vine ripened” that have not passed the test…

The True Tomato Test

Make sure that the tomato is truly red, not an orangey or mauve color. (This is a general rule—some varieties of tomato are meant to be yellow or orange, and some are even meant to stay green). The best test of a tomato is to smell it. Does it smell distinctly like a tomato? If you are unsure, keep looking.

Tomatoes should not look wrinkled, or contain any spots, squishy areas, or bruising. The tomato should be firm but will become softer as it nears ripeness. Watch out for tomatoes with green patches circling the stem, this is called green shoulder and the tomato will be bad.

Remember to never ever store your tomatoes in the fridge. Keep them on the counter and they will continue to ripen.

Mayo Alternatives

I've tried several alternatives to Mayonnaise:

  • ranch dressing
  • hummus
  • American cheese and mustard

Leave me comment if you have any other ideas!

Lunch Time!

  1. Now that you’ve finally found the perfect tomato, pick a good bread (I prefer wheat or 12 grain), and toast it until it is light brown.
  2. While the bread is toasting, rinse the tomato with tap water (always rinse your produce!!) and slice it into big, flat sections that will lay accross the bread.
  3. Have the mayonnaise and knife ready to go and spread the mayonnaise on one side of each piece as soon as the bread pops out of the toaster. Lay the tomato slices on one of the pieces of bread and lay the other piece on top.
  4. Eat while it’s still warm! You may want to have a napkin on hand, or revel in the tomato juice running down your chin.

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