In my house, we look forward to tomato season all year. We rush to farmers markets and produce stands in the summer, eagerly awaiting the sight of red, yellow, orange and pink tomatoes to take center stage in our everyday cooking. It’s fun to see the colorful heirloom tomatoes on the counter, and sometimes I don’t want to use them because they look so beautiful. Some have stripes, some have weird ridges and bumps, but they all have that perfectly tart and sweet, juicy flavor we all love.
But, sadly, autumn is around the corner and soon our summer bounty will be gone until the following year. So we binge on tomatoes while we can, using them in as many dishes as possible. I often wonder why I eat them any other time of year. To celebrate the beloved tomato, I pulled together a few interesting facts and a couple recipes that showcase the fruit. (Yes, technically, a tomato is a fruit.)
- According to the USDA, Americans eat between 22- 24 pounds of tomatoes per person, per year.
- According to the USDA, the tomato is America’s fourth most popular fresh-market vegetable behind potatoes, lettuce, and onions.
- Heirloom tomatoes are varieties that have been reproduced for multiple generations without cross-breeding.
- There are four general classifications for the shape of a tomato: beefsteak, globe, paste and cherry.
- According to HGTV, the scientific term for the tomato is islycopersicon lycopersicum, which means “wolf peach.”
- According to the USDA, there are an estimated 10,000-25,000 varieties of tomatoes in the world.
- Tomatoes can be preserved through canning, freezing, and drying.
- Plum tomatoes have lots of meaty flesh and few seeds, making them suitable for sauces and pastes. Slicing tomatoes have more juice and seeds and less flesh. They’re ideal for eating in salads.
- Store fresh, ripe tomatoes at room temperature with stem side up to reduce softening. Avoid storing tomatoes in the refrigerator, where cold air dulls its taste and softens the texture to make it mushy.
- 2 large red ripe tomatoes (about 1&1/4 pounds), cored, seeded, and diced
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons peeled and diced red onion, (optional)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- 12 slices crusty French bread, cut diagonally, about 3/4-inch thick
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
- In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil, red onion (if desired), 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the minced garlic, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes but not longer than 2 hours.
- Place the bread slices on the grill. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes or until the bread is lightly toasted and golden on both sides, turning once.
- Remove and immediately rub the edges and one side of each slice with a garlic clove half. (Use a half clove for every 2 slices.) Drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil onto the garlic-rubbed side of each slice.
- Stir the tomato mixture with a large spoon to thoroughly moisten; top each bread slice with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the tomato mixture. Place on a platter and serve immediately.