Were you aware that the question of whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable was settled by the Supreme Court in 1893? It was officially declared a vegetable. Botanically, it’s still a fruit, actually a berry. It’s a member of the nightshade family making it a relative of potatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant.

While tomatoes are available year ‘round, we all know how winter tomatoes disappoint. Mushy and flavorless. Vine- and sun-ripened tomatoes are the gardener and salad-lover’s dream, right? With this hope on the horizon, let’s talk more about tomato-best-practices.

For instance, if you’re ever making a dish that calls for peeled tomatoes, go the easy route and place them in boiling water for just a few seconds (maybe 10 or 12); remove from heat, allow them to stand for 1 minute before plunging them into cold water. This technique allows you to slip the skins quickly.

Speaking of boiling or any other cooking method, you’ll access more of their precious lycopene if you cook them. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant with oodles of health benefits. It protects against sunburn, improves heart health, and lowers the risk of certain types of cancer.

Also good to know: They’ll keep longer if stored with the stem end down.

And never allow tomatoes to ripen in direct sunlight—they’ll lose most of their vitamin C.

By the way, if you’re a gardener and expecting a frost, did you know you can pull up your tomatoes by the vine and hang them upside down in a cool basement until the fruit ripens?

It’s also good to know that green tomatoes will ripen faster when stored with apples.

If you’re one of the folks who can’t eat spaghetti sauces and other tomato-based foods due to their higher acidic content, you’ll like this tip: adding finely chopped or shredded carrots to tomato-based dishes will reduce acidity without affecting the taste of the dish. It’s the high fiber content of the carrot that does the job.

And my last suggestion: If you like the aroma of fresh tomatoes in your salad, don’t refrigerate them. They should be left at room temperature if they are going to be used within 2-3 days after purchase. And don’t slice or peel them until just before serving. The aroma is produced by a chemical which is released when the tomato is sliced open, and it only lasts at its maximum level for about three minutes before it starts to lose its scent.

Finally, how about fried green tomatoes, made famous by the movie with the same name? The following is the original recipe that goes back 100 years:

Fried Green Tomatoes


3 large, firm green tomatoes
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal (the fresher, the better)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 strips bacon

Core and slice tomatoes ¼ inch thick (makes about 10-12 slices). Blend milk, egg, salt and pepper in bowl. In another bowl mix flour and cornmeal. In heavy pan over medium heat, heat oil and bacon strips until oil is hot, then remove and discard bacon. (The oil should be to a depth of ½ inch and at 350 degrees before adding the tomatoes.)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees until needed. Dip tomato slices in egg batter then flour mixture. Place in frying pan and fry about 4 minutes (2 minutes on each side) until nicely browned. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels; place in pie pan lined with aluminum foil and set in oven until time to serve.

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Tomatoes are a kitchen staple in most homes, and research shows the favorite way to eat them is fresh. I concur. I take a salt shaker out to the garden, find a shady spot to sit, and enjoy one of the nicest treats of the summer (oh, I can’t wait!). If you have a minute, drop us a line—how do YOU like your tomatoes?


    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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