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A Guide on How to Buy and Cook Tomatoes Like a Pro

Updated on July 19, 2012

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Interesting Fact

Tomatoes possess aphrodisiac qualities and were once called "Love Apples" or "Pomme D'Amour".

Some people believe that it was the tomato that tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden.

Tales of the Tomato

Many people believe that the tomato originated in Spain or Italy because it is so widely used in their cuisine today. However, it is believed that the first tomatoes grew wild in South America in areas like Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador. The first to farm them were ancestors of the Inca and Aztec civilizations. When the Spaniards conquered Mexico in the 16th century, they brought the fruit back to the New World. Some historians believe Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes was responsible for introducing tomatoes to the world, while others believe it may have been Christopher Columbus.

Early tomatoes were named "Peruvian Apples" or "Golden Apples". The word tomato comes from the Latin name "lycopersicon esculentum" which means "edible wolf's peach". Early on, it was believed that tomatoes were poisonous.

After the Spaniards returned to Spain with tomatoes, they were amazed at how well the fruit flourished there and in Italy. In the early 19th century, they were able to produce a variety of different tomato types including cherry tomatoes, pear shaped tomatoes, and currant-fruited tomatoes. Today, there are over 7,000 varieties of tomatoes available around the world. In the past, the varieties available in supermarkets were very limited, but there are now more selection available to the everyday consumer.

And who can forget the La Tomatina festival, hosted by Buñol, Spain? The annual tomato throwing fight is a attraction known worldwide, where people flock to the streets to hurl Spanish tomatoes at each other.

Your Guide to Buying Tomatoes

Unfortunately, most people are concerned with just the colour, but not the ripeness, freshness, or intended use. Here I'll outline some of the more popular varieties of tomatoes, how to pick them, and the best ways to use them.

Beefsteak Tomatoes
Beefsteak Tomatoes

Beefsteak Tomatoes

Best Eaten: Raw, in salads, on sandwiches or burgers, or stuffed

Best Texture: Firm, plenty of flesh, either round with pumpkin-type ridges

Flavor: Sweet, mellow, low acidity

Additional Details: Beefsteak tomatoes can be picked from the vine while they're still green and allowed to ripened on your counter. However, it's best to allow them to ripen completely on the vine before picking to enhance flavor and texture.

Cherry Tomatoes
Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

Best Eaten: Small snacks or appetizers, paired with cheese, or tossed in a salad

Best Texture: Soft skin, but may be tougher closer to winter

Flavor: Deep flavor and tends to improve when kept on counter for some time

Additional Details: Cherry tomatoes are available in red, yellow and orange varieties, making them a great addition to any dish. Sizes range from thumb sized to golf-ball sized.

Plum/Roma Tomatoes
Plum/Roma Tomatoes

Plum or Roma Tomatoes

Best Eaten: Cooked and made into sauces and salsas

Best Texture: Meaty, fleshy texture

Flavor: High acidity and deep flavor

Additional Details: This type of tomato has a very thick skin, making it easy to peel. Cooks prefer Plum or Roma tomatoes when cooking, as their flavor is more concentrated when heated. They are frequently used for canning and preserves.

Vine/Round Summer Tomato
Vine/Round Summer Tomato

Vine or Round Salad Tomatoes

Best Eaten: Raw or cooked (when deep in color). They can be grilled, roasted, or sautéed.

Best Texture: Semi-firm, deep in color

Flavor: Varies depending on region, but generally is acidic with full flavor

Additional Details: Vine tomatoes were newly introduced to supermarkets as many buyers enjoy the authentic feel of the tomatoes. They are the exact same as round salad tomatoes, but still on the vine. The round salad tomato is the most common of all the varieties. Add a pinch of salt, pepper or sugar to bring out the fruit's full flavor.

How to Cut Tomatoes

Removing the Stem

To remove the stem of a tomato, don't simply chop off the top part of the fruit. Use a paring knife or a tomato shark to remove the stem and core by removing the section around the stem. Only remove as little of the tomato as possible.This will give you more of the tomato to work with, and it looks a lot nicer.

Slicing a Tomato

Place the tomato on a cutting board with the stem end towards your hand. You can then use a serrated knife to cut the tomato into slices of equal thickness. The thickness will depend on the intended use and taste you need. Be sure to watch your fingers when slicing a tomato - they can be very slippery.

Chopping a Tomato

To chop a tomato into smaller pieces, stack tomato slices and slice them into strips. Then, turn your cutting board or the tomato and slice it in the opposite direction. This will allow you to chop (or dice) into small pieces. Always be sure to hold it with your fingers closed, only exposing your knuckles.

Seed a Tomato

Some recipes may call for you to remove the seeds of a tomato. First, cut the tomato length-wise through the centre of the tomato. Then you'll want to cut your halves in half again, creating quarters. You can then take a spoon and cut out the center or remove the seeds by hand.

Peel a Tomato

With a small knife, cut a small X in the bottom of your tomatoes, only to pierce the skins. Place them in a pot of simmering water about approximately 2-3 minutes. Remove them and place in ice water for another 2-3 minutes. Once you remove the tomatoes from the ice water, you will see how the skin is peeling away from the tomato. You can them peel the rest, quickly and easily.

Interesting Fact

Many varieties of tomatoes have been genetically modified to have a tougher skin to survive travelling long distances. If you buy organic, you will notice a softer skin than a modified tomato.

How to Store Tomatoes

Tomatoes are best stored on the counter instead of the fridge. Tomatoes love to be kept at room temperature and keep their taste and texture better this way. If you are looking to ripen tomatoes faster, store them in sunlight on inside a paper bag.

Nutritional Content of a Tomato

Tomato or tomatoe, no matter how you slice it tomatoes are just plain good for you. Each tomato contains up to 95% water and are an excellent source of vitamins A, C and E. They also contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene which help to lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. They're also a great source of calcium, mineral salts and fibre. Tomatoes typically contain approximately 14 calories per 100g serving.

Super Easy Pasta with Tomatoes, Brie and Basil Recipe

This is the perfect summery tomato dish, which is quick and easy to prepare. I've adapted the recipe from this recipe from Relish.

Cook Time

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 10 min
Ready in: 20 min
Yields: Serves 4-5 people


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium tomatoes (about 1 pound), crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces short pasta (like bowtie or radiators), cooked and drained
  • 8 ounces Brie cheese, room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup basil leaves, torn


  1. Fill a large pot with water, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and leave to boil.
  2. While waiting for your water to boil, heat a medium sized pan with the olive oil. Add garlic, then slowly add the tomatoes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Reduce heat.
  3. Once the water has boiled, add pasta and cook to package directions (if you're using fresh, usually 3-4 minutes - dried, usually 8-10 minutes)
  4. Always taste a small piece of pasta before removing it from the water. Some people prefer it cooked well, while most people prefer it al dente (not too hard, not too soft). Once it is at the desired texture, strain water and return to pot.
  5. Stir in tomatoes and garlic then place on dish, garnish with brie and basil leaves.

Nutritional Information

Nutrition Facts
% Daily Value *
Fat 18 g28%
Saturated fat 8 g40%
Carbohydrates 22 g7%
Sugar 3 g
Fiber 2 g8%
Protein 12 g24%
Cholesterol 40 mg13%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.


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    • Lucky Cats profile image


      6 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      There is nothing better, on a hot summer day, than a freshly picked tomatoe...with a tiny bit of salt, freshly ground black peppar and balsamic DIE for! I've planted 4 plants of 3 kinds in my backyard and am salivating...waiting for tose little green balls to become ripe, hot, spicey, tangy tomatoes!!!!!

    • chamilj profile image


      6 years ago from Sri Lanka

      Interesting article about tomatoes.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This is a terrific article all about tomatoes. I had never heard of using vacuum cleaner bag contents to nourish tomato plants. Will give it a try! Your recipe sounds delicious. This should be a Hub of the Day! Voted useful, interesting and will share with my followers. Thanks!


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