See also cherry and plum tomatoes.

The versatile tomato is a fruit but is typically treated like a vegetable. It is a mainstay in Italian sauces, big pots of chili, and fresh gardens salads.


As a member of the nightshade family, tomatoes were once thought to be poisonous. They originated in South America, and when Spain began sending ships into the Caribbean, travelers returned with seeds. No one is exactly sure who was the first to discover the great tomato taste.


Tomato species are as numerous as peppers and just as varied.

Popular small-to-medium types include:

  • Grape
  • Cherry
  • Plum

For larger varieties, try these:

  • Beef (slicers)
  • Burpee Big Boy

Round (salad) tomatoes are in the medium size range.

Tomatoes also come in a range of colors. Yellow varieties are low in acid and very tasty. Ripe green tomatoes are an excellent choice for salsa, sauces, and chutneys.

Canned tomatoes are convenient and a mainstay in many pantries. The choices include pureed, whole, chopped, diced, stewed, flavored, and sauced.

Sun- or oven-dried tomatoes are great for snacks or rehydrated for soups and stews.

Buying Tips

  • Tomatoes are available year-round, but varieties will rotate depending on season and growing conditions.
  • Locally-grown tomatoes typically have the best taste, but may have cosmetic blemishes.
  • Handle tomatoes gently, but test for firmness.
  • All tomatoes have the same general qualities. However, plum or roma tomatoes are best for sauces.

Storage Tips

  • Store tomatoes away from sunlight and heat and at cool room temperatures.
  • Do not refrigerate tomatoes for any length of time (don’t buy them from refrigerated cases). Low temperatures destroy the flavor.
  • Freeze tomatoes in slices, chunks, or even whole. These can be used for cooking. Double bag them and use within twelve months.

Usage Tips

  • Tomatoes can be fried, broiled, boiled, roasted, stewed, steamed, and sautéed.
  • Removing seeds is easy. Just slice in half and dip them out with a small spoon.
  • Cherry and grape tomatoes will hold up well on kabob skewers.
  • Use the juice of a fresh tomato as a marinade