Seasons's Eatings: Placergrown Tomatoes
DID YOU KNOW? // Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Scientifically speaking, it’s definitely a fruit, but the tomato demands our attention for savory uses, which is why it’s commonly referred to as a vegetable. Whichever category you place it in, now’s the time to find them at local farmers’ markets. Tomatoes come in a multitude of shapes, sizes, and colors (red, pink, yellow, orange/tangerine, green, purple, or brown). Beefsteak and beefmaster are among the largest-sized varieties; Roma are more of an intermediate size; while cherry and grape are small and rounded. We’re lucky to have a large selection of heirloom tomatoes, too, where every variety is genetically unique, resistant to pests and diseases, adaptable to their specific growing conditions, and less uniform in shape with beautiful variations of color. Historically, tomatoes were once generally believed to be poisonous. About 200 years ago, Americans shunned the “fruit,” as it’s a member of the toxic “nightshade” family. How times have changed! Tomatoes are now one of the most popular fresh-market vegetables, along with potatoes and onions.
SELECTION AND STORAGE // Choose tomatoes that are smooth-skinned with no wrinkles, cracks, bruises, or soft spots. Ripe tomatoes will yield slightly to pressure and have a noticeably sweet fragrance. The best way to choose one at a market is to talk to the grower. Since tomatoes are sensitive to cold, store them at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. They should keep for up to a week on the counter; whole and chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce can be frozen for future use in cooked dishes.
For details on where to buy Placer County farm-fresh produce, wine, meat, and local products, visit placergrown.org.