Only two things that money can’t buy
That’s true love and home grown tomatoes
–Guy Clark

We all know we’re supposed to eat more fruits & vegetables.

“Make half your plate fruits and vegetables,” they tell us. That just got so much easier! Why, you ask? Because it’s summer in North Carolina! Do you know how lucky you are to be right here, right now? You’re probably cranking up your AC and slapping mosquitoes and looking at me funny, but I’ll contend we have it good because we live in a community with so many amazing farmers and farmer’s markets. What do I love best? Their tomatoes!

Find a farmer’s market near you!

Don’t Put Tomatoes in the Fridge

This discovery changed my life. Have you ever eaten a tomato that’s never been refrigerated? Try it and tell me if it’s not markedly better than what you’re used to. I was delighted to discover that Elizabeth Baldwin, a researcher at the USDA who investigates “flavor quality of citrus, tomatoes, and tropical/subtropical products” has found EVIDENCE that refrigeration diminishes tomato flavor.

If you don’t have access to home-grown tomatoes, the next best thing is your local farmer’s market for never-refrigerated tomatoes. If you’ve only ever eaten tomatoes still chilled from the grocery store, you might be shocked by how much better they can be with appropriate handling.

I recommend you buy tomatoes as you go. Buy what you can eat in the next couple days, because in this weather they aren’t going to last that long at room temperature. Keep them out of direct sunlight; if they’re pretty ripe, farmers have advised me to keep them in an open paper bag in a dark pantry. Closing the paper bag will trap the ethylene and further speed their ripening. If you keep them in a darker place, just don’t forget about them. However you keep them, lay them flat in a single row because they are sensitive to bruising. If you discover that tomato has a break in the skin, I’d recommend eating it immediately.

If you buy too many, here is a simple solution: eat them. Have people over to eat them with you. If you cut a tomato and don’t use all of it, eat it. If you refrigerate it, it’ll get mealy and bland. If you wrap it up and leave it at room temperature, it’s probably going to mold & attract fruit flies. Just sprinkle a little S&P on it & eat it! Easy as pie!

Where to start

If you’re new to the wild world of heirloom tomatoes, it can be daunting. There are so many different kinds! Talk to your farmers — the people who grow your food often have great advice about what to try first. Personally, my absolute favorite tomatoes are sungolds and Cherokee Purples. Rinse off the sungolds and eat them like candy. Cherokee Purples make sublime tomato sandwiches. But matters of taste are very individual! I did an informal survey of my friends, asking, “What are your favorite tomatoes?”

“Green Zebras are my fave. Firstly they are striped, and that’s sexy, but also they are sweet and tangy at the same time – I eat em like apples!” — Erin

“I don’t like the goop inside of the tomato, so I tend to like smaller tomatoes. Because they have less goop.” – Diana

“Heirlooms are trendy and all, but I love beautiful, fresh grape tomatoes in a great panzanella salad. I love the question, by the way. Tomatoes are our friends.” — Leslie

“Cherry! Tart, tiny, tasty!” — Cameron

“Fresh off the vine, don’t matter the kind” – Alysse

“Whatever is still warm from the sun” — Joanna

Go exploring! Maybe try one new tomato every week. Ask the farmers what they like best! Try them with balsamic & basil or feta & cucumber. Be adventurous or be classic.

At the end of the day, remember that Latin maxim — “De gustibus non est disputandum” – “No disputing matters of taste.” You like what you like! You might like tomatoes more if you try them ripe & fresh & in season.

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