Tomatoes are a fruit and part of the nightshade family (like potatoes and eggplants), but they are served and prepared as a vegetable, which is why most people consider them a vegetable and not a fruit. Tomatoes come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes: large red beefsteaks are slightly irregular; globes are red, medium-size and round; plum tomatoes are egg-shaped and red or yellow (grape tomatoes are baby plums); cherry tomatoes are small and round, etc. There are many heirloom varieties that are not marketed widely but come in red, yellow, green and even purple, as well as striped. Native to South America, and brought to Europe by Spanish explorers, the tomato took some time to be accepted because tomatoes were thought to be poisonous, like other members of the nightshade family. It was not until the 1900s that tomatoes started to gain popularity in the US.
Season: July - October
How to select: Available year round, but at their peak in June to September. The most flavorful are ripened on the vine, not in the store as most are sold. Choose firm tomatoes, richly colored and noticeably fragrant.
How to store: Ripe tomatoes should be stored at room temperature and used within a few days. Never refrigerate tomatoes as the cold temperature kills the flavor and turns the flesh grainy.
How to prepare: bake, broil, fry, grill, raw, saute, stew
Matches well with: anchovies, arugula, basil, bread crumbs, cheese, chiles, chives, cucumbers, eggs, garlic, lemon, marjoram, mint, mushrooms, olive oil, olives, onions, oregano, parsley, pasta, pepper, peppers, saffron, salt, seafood, shallots, sugar, tarragon, thyme, vinegar
Substitutions: 1 (14.5 oz) can tomatoes, drained = 2 cups chopped tomatoes