By: April Houweling
One of the most beautiful and tasty pairings of nature's bounty is avocado together with tomato. We partnered up with Houweling's California Grown tomatoes and created some recipes that showcase the products together. Here April Houweling provides tips on the care and handling of tomatoes as well as our recipe creations.
As a result of California's prime location for growing produce, there are many farmers, packers & distributers working hard every day to get the finest, local produce in your hands. But, once it's in your hands, your actions will determine the final quality of your produce. Every fruit and vegetable has specific needs which can affect their flavor. When it comes to California Grown tomatoes, Houweling's would like to share a couple tips to make sure your tomatoes are tasting the best they possibly can!
The first and simplest rule is:
Do not refrigerate! This actually degrades the tomato of its flavor and results in a dull taste with a mealy texture. So next time you are unpacking your groceries, make sure to store your tomatoes at room temperature and out of direct sunlight (sunlight will speed-up ripening). Trust us, you will notice the smooth texture and overflowing juicy flavor!
However, we don't want you to be concerned about your tomatoes not lasting long enough at home, so we have provided this next tip for you. There is so much more to choosing your tomatoes than just red equals ripe. Generally, when you buy a cluster of tomatoes, they will have all ripened to a similar red color once they reach your kitchen counter. But just because they are all red, doesn't mean they are all equally ripe. The vine is a channel for nutrients between the plant and the fruit. Consequently, when picking a tomato for your California Avocado guacamole, sandwich or salad,
Pick the one closest to the top of the truss. The truss refers to the vine of the tomato and the closer to the top (where the vine has been cut) is where the first flowers and then fruit form. This tomato has received its nutrients first and therefore will be the first to ripen and subsequently the first to become over-ripe. If you pick your tomatoes from top to bottom, you should be able to use each tomato at the peak of its maturity, equaling its best taste and texture!
Now that you know how to pick the top tomato, you want to pick the right variety for what you are making. Tomatoes come in many different shapes and sizes and while they are all great, each one has an ideal purpose.
- TOVs (Tomatoes on the Vine) are ideal for toast, burgers and sandwiches as they slice well and have a good balance of meatiness and gel. Spread some California Avocado onto your bread, place a couple sliced tomatoes on top and you've got the foundation for a gourmet sandwich or burger like this BLAST Sandwich!
- Roma Tomatoes are known as the 'Italian Tomato' for a reason. These longer shaped tomatoes are best for sauces and cooking because they are meatier with less gel. They create a tomato sauce with the perfect consistency. You will never have to worry about that dreaded, overly runny sauce again. They're also delicious in this recipe for gazpacho, which is perfect for hot summer days
- Strawberry Tomatoes are like the Roma's little sister. They are similar in texture but much smaller in size and have one of the highest brix contents of all tomatoes. This means they are very sweet and make them the ideal snack tomato that pop in your mouth with flavor! Next time you are having a BBQ, add a few on your kabobs, they will transform the whole flavor!
- The Grape Tomato is smaller than the Strawberry and is the perfect size to slice in half and throw in a salad. They come in a variety of colors and can add that extra punch to every salad you make! I like this Avocado Summer Salad
As farmers we take a lot of pride into getting you the best tomatoes. We hope these tips help you enjoy your tomatoes even more. But, we know life can get busy and those tomatoes you were going to use last week are still sitting on the counter. So here is a one more, quick tip to help you...
Never waste a tomato. Regardless of your best intentions, when you realize those tomatoes you were saving for your lunch are over-ripe and may not make the grade to be sliced for your sandwich, there is a great option - Oven Roasted Tomatoes! Pre-heat your oven to 375F. Cut your tomatoes in half or quarters if they are larger sized, and place the skin side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic on the tomatoes, then season with salt and pepper. Place them in the oven and within 30-35 minutes, you will have lovely oven roasted tomatoes! Serve them warm on their own, toss them on a pizza or into a pasta, or combine them with California Avocado and a little minced garlic for an amazing bruschetta topping. Your taste buds will thank you!