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  • Don’t just buy with your eyes
  • Tomatoes taste best in the middle of summer

The vegetable “tomato” has changed hugely in recent years. Not that long ago you could only find one sort in the shops, today you’ll find lots of different varieties, sizes and colors of tomatoes all with different characteristics.

A wide and uneven supply

There are no absolute rules, but some tomatoes are better cooked while others are better raw in a salad.

There’s a huge amount of variation. There are many different kinds of tomatoes with many different characteristics – and there can be huge differences in quality. You simply have to be prepared for it and sniff, squeeze and taste them first. A tip from Joel Aronsson:

"If the tomatoes aren’t prime you need to work on enhancing the flavors."

Learn more

Tomatoes are such an important ingredient that it’s worth putting a bit of time and energy into learning more about them. Read up on tomatoes and ask your greengrocer questions. Try out unfamiliar varieties when you’re abroad, it’s fun.

Don’t trust your eyes

Things have gone so far that many of the tomatoes we buy in the supermarket have been produced almost solely for their regular color and shape, not for their flavor. Everything is about those seconds in the shop when the consumer just automatically buys the one that looks most reassuring.

The truth is that the best tomatoes – the ones you’ve tasted when you’re on holiday and in markets in the Mediterranean – can look different in all sorts of ways. They might have green spots, be a weird shape, have scars, look leathery, be different colors, or lighter or darker.

One professional tip when buying tomatoes is to use more senses than just your sense of sight.

Changing shades of green

Evenly round, even sized, evenly red tomatoes are handy for the farmer who’s harvesting them, for the shopkeeper who’s selling them and the consumer who’s shopping on instinct, but tomatoes with shades of green on the skin are – according to some surveys – tastier and have more flavor than “perfect” tomatoes. Run your own taste tests.

Color and taste

The colors in tomatoes are linked to their flavor. Yellow and orange tomatoes have a milder flavor. Darker tomatoes tending towards brown or purple are often less acidic and can be tasteless.

The color is called lycopene

The red color in – almost all – tomatoes is called lycopene. It’s a useful antioxidant full of nutrients. Some research indicates that it provides even more nutrients when heated.

Local tomatoes or imported

Opinions are divided on which tomatoes are best. Some professionals swear by home-grown. Others sigh and say native tomatoes are still no good when transported a long way through much of the year.

Summer season

The tomato season begins in May and runs to October. The rest of the year tomatoes tend to be imported, often from Spain. Some of the varieties have been produced for winter climates (at southern latitudes) but they still don’t have the same flavor as local tomatoes in season.

A tomato that has been allowed to ripen on the vine in the sun can contain up to five times more vitamin C than a tomato that has ripened in a loading bay.

Try new varieties

It looks as though the trend towards more exotic tomatoes is set to continue. One tip is not to get hung up on those bright red, evenly sized vine tomatoes (they’ve been bred for their regularity of color and shape to attract us in the shops) and try new varieties that might not look quite as perfect.

Best in the summer

Tomatoes, especially local ones, taste best, have the most nutrients and are the most environmentally friendly in the summer.

Choose tinned tomatoes

Nothing can beat sun-ripened tomatoes for flavor and texture but there’s one simple tip if you’ve got to use tinned: It’s worth going for a more expensive better product. There is a big difference on quality.

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