It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.
—Lewis Grizzard (1946-1994)
There’s nothing quite like a summer-ripe tomato—the heady, sweet smell, the intoxicating, succulent flavor, and of course the acidic juices to beat the heat. A terrific source of vitamin C, with a touch of vitamin A, potassium and fiber thrown in for good measure, they don’t just taste great, they’re also good for you. Tomatoes are also rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that may slow down aging of the skin and may be beneficial against cancer and heart disease. Cooking may actually increase the health benefits of this lush fruit.
A medium-size fresh tomato is an excellent source of vitamins A and C—and if you eat them in season, you’ll get twice as much vitamin C as when they’re not. Tomatoes also contain the red pigment lycopene, which helps prevent some types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer.
You may have noticed a huge difference between local summer tomatoes and the ones available year-round in supermarkets. You’re not imagining it—many commercial tomatoes are picked green (but technically mature) and ripened with ethylene gas in a controlled environment. So when you see the first crop of in-season, vine-ripened jewels, scoop them up and don’t stop until their season’s over!
Look for well-shaped tomatoes with uniform color, no green on the “shoulders” and a texture that’s not soft, but yields slightly to firm hand pressure.
Size is not a good indicator of quality, so don’t think that you have to find the biggest tomatoes to get the best flavor.
Storage will depend on how ripe your tomatoes are when you buy them, as they continue to ripen as they sit. Leave tomatoes at room temperature away from sunlight until they are perfectly ripe, and enjoy!
A member of the same family as deadly nightshade, the tomato was believed to be poisonous by early Americans. Its popularity in the U.S. is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, who grew fond of eating tomatoes during his time in Paris.