There are more than 300 different varieties of tomatoes commercially grown in Ontario. To make it easier, those 300 can be grouped into the following categories:
- Round (slicing/table): Medium-sized, globe-shaped. Ideal for eating raw.
- Roma or Plum: Plum-shaped and thick-fleshed. Smaller and less juicy than the Round variety. Excellent for preserving, sauces, or making paste.
- Beefsteak: Similar to Round tomatoes but flatter with fleshier walls and not as juicy. Excellent for both cooking and eating raw. Size varies from small to large.
Popular Ontario field tomato varieties include Sunrise, Pik Rite, Mountain Pride, Pilgrim, Red Star and Ultra-sweet.
One medium tomato has 25 calories; it's a good source of Vitamin C and a source of Vitamin A and folacin.
The tomato originated in South America in pre-Columbian times and eventually became a staple in the Mexican diet. But for much of its history in North America and Europe, it was considered an ornamental plant; eating it was thought to be distasteful if not unhealthy.
In the 1800s it began to be used to make sauces and soups, but it wasn't until the 1900s that the tomato gained full international acceptance.
Buying and storing
A ripe field tomato should be firm, though not rock-hard, and have a slightly supple quality to its surface; it should feel heavy for its size.
Avoid any sign of mould or bruising. The occasional small surface cracks at the bottom of a tomato won't affect its quality.
Store at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, to prevent uneven ripening.
Only in extreme heat, or if overripe, should tomatoes be stored in the refrigerator butter compartment. But to ensure full flavour, allow them to reach room temperature before serving.
To ripen tomatoes, store in a plain brown paper bag with apples or pears. Both release a natural ethylene gas that speeds up ripening.
When buying tomatoes, use this helpful guide:
- 3 to 4 small tomatoes equal 1 lb/500 g
- a 4 L basket contains 6 lbs/2.5 kg tomatoes
Rinse under running water and drain on clean towelling.
Hint: Tomatoes sliced from stem end to bottom will keep their juice better than those sliced crosswise.
To peel, dip in boiling water for 10 to 30 seconds using a fork to pierce the stem end. Immediately submerge in cold water. When cool enough to handle, gently loosen the skin with a knife tip and peel.
To remove seeds, halve the tomatoes crosswise and gently squeeze into a sieve over a bowl to catch the seeds as the juice runs out.
Because of their high acidity, prepare tomatoes in pans with non-reactive surfaces (e.g. enamelware or stainless steel).
Avoid aluminium and non-stainless steel because the tomato's acid will react with them to produce a bitter aftertaste. Especially avoid copper as the reaction can be toxic.
Plastic bowls may be stained by tomato juices. Use glass or china.