The Tastiest Tomatoes
From selection and storage to slicing and cooking, here are our best tips for enjoying this garden favorite at its best.
It’s the holy grail of the garden. The one thing most of us can agree on. Because when a tomato is good, it’s amazingly good.
“Biting into a perfectly ripened tomato fresh from the vine is one of life’s true pleasures,” says John Taylor, a member of the Panera Bread® Food Team. “And that’s something we take very seriously when it comes to our own menu items. We’re working toward using only vine-ripened tomatoes throughout our menu. That’s our commitment.”
Whether you grow your own, shop at the farmers’ markets, or frequent the local supermarket chains, these simple tips will help you find and enjoy the tastiest tomatoes the season has to offer.
Selection. “The best tomatoes are typically available from June through September,” says John, who recommends focusing first on color. Look for rich shades of red across most varieties (yellow or orange tomatoes are, of course, an exception), and inspect each tomato for bruises and other imperfections.
Next, let your nose know. The riper the tomato, the deeper and more floral the smell, John says. Test a tomato the same way you’d test any fresh fruit or vegetable. “You want to at least get a hint of that fragrance,” he adds. When shopping in the supermarket, John likes to select tomatoes sold on the vine, as these typically have more flavor.
Storage. Tomatoes will continue to ripen off the vine, so storage is very important. Keep fresh tomatoes at room temperature - not in the refrigerator - and place them stem side down to slow the deterioration process.
Slicing. “Use a sharp knife,” John recommends. “The sharpest knife you are comfortable with.” Serrated or tomato knives also work well, but the key word here is sharp. Tomatoes are delicate, especially when they are at the peak of ripeness, and you don’t want to hack them apart, he warns. A paring knife is also a good tool for removing the stem or any small imperfections.
Cooking. Always wondered which varieties are best for eating raw and which are best for cooking? John offers this simple rule of thumb: Globe shapes are best for slicing, and pear shapes (such as Roma tomatoes) are best for stews, sauces, and cooking. And when it comes to snacks, think bite-sized cherry or grape tomatoes.
“If you want to really make your tomatoes pop with flavor, sprinkle a pinch of salt and a pinch of superfine sugar over them before eating or cooking,” he adds. “The seasoning dissolves instantly but adds an amazing amount of character and taste.”