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Tomatoes come in hundreds of different varieties, and in an array of amazing colours! It would be impossible to discuss them all here, and so we’ll consider choosing and storing tomatoes sold as a loose product.
When selecting tomatoes, your main guide is going to be your nose. Now this, I realise, it’s not the most social way of choosing fruit. No one likes to see another shopper pick up fruit or veg, stick it to their nose and then replace it again. It’s neither pleasant nor hygienic! But the honest truth is, we have no better sense than our sense of smell for choosing good tomatoes.
Tomatoes have a distinctive smell. You should get a rich, vibrant aroma from them. You’re not going to get that from the majority of supermarket bought tomatoes though! They’re usually picked when they are still green and then ripen during transport and storage. It’s this storage at low temperature that causes them to lack flavour and lose their smell.
Some people believe that if you dunk an under-ripe tomato in hot water for about five minutes, and then let to cool improves their flavour!
So with supermarket tomatoes, you can only go by their weight relative to their size: they should feel heavy, be firm, plump and round without blemishes.
Storing tomatoes is often the subject of debate: to refrigerate or not to refrigerate? Well, if you do, they will last longer – but you compromise on their flavour, as that will degrade faster in the fridge. The best way to store tomatoes is in a cool, dark place with their stem sides down. Then use as quickly as you can.
If they have to go into the fridge, then let them rest at room temperature for at least an hour before you use them.
I often get laughed at for making several trips to the shops during the week, and this is because I like to buy my fresh ingredients in small amounts and use them quickly. Remember, fruit and vegetables in supermarkets may already have been in storage for quite some time!
Tomatoes are one of the few kitchen ingredients that actually improve their nutrition profile by cooking. This is because of a compound called lycopene, which has shown some incredible health benefits in some clinical trials. Lycopene is richest in tinned tomatoes and tomato ketchup (although the latter is also high in salt and sugar!).
Score the base of the tomato with a large X and then place in a bowl. Pour over boiling water and let the tomatoes sit in them until the skins start to peel. You can then remove the skins easily.
Cut them in half, then half again and scoop out the seeds. They’re now ready to chop and turn into a lovely tomato-based sauce.
Seb is a writer and blogger of food and nutrition. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition science, and has studied sports and exercise nutrition at postgraduate level. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and believes passionately that we can all live with a little less meat. He writes for www.veggieandspice.com and www.itsaboutnutrition.com