Tomatoes have become the third most popular vegetable eaten in America. This is due to the fact that tomatoes combine so well with many other foods such as poultry, meats, fish, rice, pasta, and most other vegetables. While tomatoes are not as high in nutrients as some other vegetables, they are a leading source of Vitamin C in the American diet because of the quantities eaten. They also provide Vitamin A.

There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes to be found in your garden or grocery stores, but most fall into one of three distinct categories:

  • Cherry tomatoes: are round bite-size and are often served in salads or as a garnish. Their skin may be red or yellow.
     
  • Plum tomatoes: are also known as Italian or Roma tomatoes. They are small and egg shaped and tend to be meatier and less juicy than slicing tomatoes. This makes them ideal for making sauces or adding to other cooked foods.
     
  • Slicing tomatoes: are large, rounded varieties which include round globe types commonly found in most grocery stores as well as the flatter beefsteak tomatoes prized by home gardeners.

Other varieties include yellow or orange tomatoes which often are advertised as low acid. They are in fact lower in acid than other tomatoes, but higher in sugar which produces a very mild, sweet flavor. Tiny red or yellow pear tomatoes are also sweet and are excellent tossed in salads.

As a basic rule, never buy a tomato from a refrigerated case; the cold damages them. Tomatoes displayed loose are easier to evaluate than those packed in boxes. Look for plump, heavy tomatoes with smooth skins. They should be free from bruises, blemishes, or deep cracks. Ripe tomatoes will be fragrant--if green tomatoes have no aroma, they were probably picked too soon and will never ripen. Room temperature is best for storing tomatoes. Keep them out of sunlight as they will overheat and ripen unevenly. Arrange them stem side up to prevent bruising. Once tomatoes are ripe, they will keep a day or two at room temperature. Refrigerate only if you need to hold them longer. For full flavor, let the tomatoes come back to room temperature before you serve them.