ToMAYto, ToMAHto

Posted by Alayne Gardner-Carimi on

Juicy Conundrum

Here we stand, having perhaps opened the last jar of last year’s tomato harvest, dreaming about the first day that we can safely plant our gardens. Maybe you’ve been more pro-active and followed your grandmother’s advice about planting your seeds on the Ides of March and are looking at the sprouts and dreaming about the delicious heirloom tomatoes you will grow. Then, teasingly, your calendar tells you that National Fresh Tomato Day is April 6th—what? Without a good tasting tomato in sight? How could that be? 

Tasty Solution

We don’t know why that date was selected, but while we’re on topic we have some tasty solutions to the winter tomato blahs. Common suggestions of increasing the tomato’s   sweetness with a little honey or sugar, and the acidity with some lemon juice, or better yet a good balsamic vinegar, like our Aceto Balsamic di Maletti, can be improved on with the addition of vomFASS Tomato Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It is lightly laced with the umami of sun-dried tomatoes and those tomatoey base notes that are missing in winter tomatoes. 

Try our oil on pasta, bruschetta, and homemade croutons. Rub a fresh, peeled clove of garlic over toasted bread and drizzle with this savory oil. This one is a finishing oil, so we do not recommend heating it. The best way to enjoy this oil? Grab a loaf of fresh baked bread + a cheese board + a bowl for your oil or a add some umami to simple Cacio e Pepe pasta recipe like below.

Tomato Flavors

Those of us who like this bright garden fruit know winter tomatoes do not taste like those locally harvested at peak season. Taste-wise, many of us wonder if the pale reddish orbs sold at the grocers, are actually tomatoes. In comparison to their summer counterparts, winter tomatoes are watery and mealy.

Tomato taste is essentially comprised of three things — sugar, acids, and aromatic volatiles. Even when genetics can be selected to improve the tomato flavor, growing conditions will make a significant difference. Often tomatoes are classed as sweet flavored, acidic, or balanced. A tomato high in sugars and low in acids has a sweet taste. A tomato low in sugars and acids has a bland taste. Traditional tomato flavor—preferred by most people—is a nearly 50-50 combination of sugars and acids; this is often referred to as “old-fashioned” tomato flavor. 

Winter tomatoes available in the USA are grown in primarily in Florida, California, and Mexico. Developing tomato varieties to fit the supply chain means sturdier, more uniformly round, and red fruits, grown on plants with higher yields and greater disease-resistance and picked prior to full ripeness to tolerate transportation. Over the years, these efforts have been successful. We have tomatoes in our grocery stores all year long. Sadly, taste took a backseat when they started selecting for features that made tomatoes easier to grow and transport. 

Flavors Vary by Color

Tomato flavors also vary by color. Plant pigments responsible for bright yellow, red, and orange hues in tomatoes produce different balances of sugars and acids. If you’re planning on buying tomato seedlings in for your garden this summer, here are some thoughts to consider for your selections. 

Purple & Black
In our experience, purple and black tomatoes have a savory, salty flavor. They’re acidic and complex.
Some of the most popular home-grown tomatoes are in this category because of their intense flavor profile. The blue-black color indicates the presence of anthocyanins - a fancy word for the healthy blue pigment that colors blueberries, red cabbage, and purple potatoes.

Mild White
On the other end of the color spectrum is the mild white tomato. These tomatoes aren’t really white but more of a pale yellow or green color. Their flavor is mild and delicate, with a slightly fruity flavor. Eat these tomatoes fresh, as their low acid levels don’t preserve as well as other tomatoes.
Red tomatoes are the most familiar, delivering the classic tomato flavor. You can expect a balance of acid and sweetness with red tomatoes and a healthy dose of lycopene! Enjoy fresh, delicious sliced red tomatoes on a sandwich, or can them for later use.
Most tomatoes start off green, of course. A few stay green even through ripeness. True green tomatoes have a lower lycopene content than reds, but they retain their chlorophyll even when ripe. They’ve got a bright, tangy acidity that can add a zip to your dishes.
Orange and yellow tomatoes are sweet and fruity. Often people who aren’t tomato fans find that they do enjoy orange and yellow tomatoes.

Cherry or Grape?

Cherry and grape tomatoes—which can vary in color–have high sugar concentrations and taste sweeter than similarly hued full-size tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are round, and are juicier than their oval-shaped, meatier mini compatriots. While often interchangeable, the grape tomato with its thicker skin often has a longer shelf-life and is better suited to being roasted than the cherry tomato.

Cacio e Pepe di Roma Pasta

Easy Caprese Salad

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