July 23, 2012
Experts' Experts: All About Tomatoes
In the July & August issue of Cook's Illustrated appear two pages of tips and advice about tomatoes.
Choose locally grown
The most important way to help ensure a flavorful tomato is to buy a locally grown one. Why? First, the less distance the tomato has to travel the riper it can be when it's picked. Second, commercial high-yield production can strain the tomato plant, resulting in tomatoes without enough sugars and other flavor compounds to make them tasty. Third, to withstand the rigors of machine harvesting and long-distance transport, commercial varieties are engineered to be sturdier with thicker walls and less of the jelly and seeds that give a tomato most of its flavor.
Don't refrigerate. Cold damages enzymes that produce flavor compounds and ruins texture by rupturing tomato cells, turning the flesh mealy. Even cut tomatoes should be kept at room temperature, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, and used within a few days. [I am always surprised when I see tomatoes in the fridges of people who pride themselves on their cooking and love of things cuisine.]
Store stem end down. Place unwashed tomatoes stem end down at room temperature. We've found that this prevents moisture from escaping and bacteria from entering through the scar, prolonging shelf life. An exception: If the vine is still attached, leave it on and store tomatoes stem end up.
Bag 'em with a banana
If you find yourself with hard, underripe tomatoes, store them in a paper bag with a banana or an apple, both of which naturally emit the ethylene gas that hastens ripening.
When we can't get tomatoes at our local farm market, we look for the following varieties at the grocery store.
• Kumato: These startlingly green-brown European imports have more fructose than conventional tomatoes, which makes them taste sweeter. Tasters also found their textures meatier.
• UglyRipe: These knobby-looking fruits are left on the living vine longer than most other commercial varieties, which explains why our tasters found them sweeter and juicier. Because of their delicateness, each fruit is individually packed in protective foam netting.
Don't be fooled by "Vine Ripened"
This term indicates only that the tomatoes were picked when 10% of the skin started to "break," or turn from green to red. Since most of their maturation happens off the vine, they'll never taste as good as naturally ripened fruit. That said, we prefer them to regular supermarket tomatoes, which are picked when fully green and blasted with ethylene gas to develop texture and color.
Test Kitchen favorites
Whole: Muir Glen Organic
Puree: Muir Glen Organic
July 23, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Permalink
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Licopene lysed yuckapucks would be available from Joe's friendly food fermenter.
Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Jul 26, 2012 3:55:25 PM
Posted by: Kay | Jul 26, 2012 3:02:00 PM
Unfortunately, the most recent crop went rancid and leathery almost overnight. They'll do that. Probably due to watering with under- or possibly over-sterilized hoses.
Posted by: Flautist | Jul 26, 2012 1:28:20 PM
Where can I order yuckapucks?
Posted by: bookofjoe | Jul 26, 2012 1:00:23 PM
The tomato is so jejune.
Valdosta yuckapucks are at their best gathered in silk-lined, unbleached muslin hemp-cord-drawstring sacks, dried on silver mesh nets, then stored for 3 days on suspended jai-alai racquets in a preferably moldy environment to allow the highly prized roqueforty tang to develop fully in their chewy custardy centers. Never let Valyucks face stem-end north while in storage - the disruption in natural pip orientation can give them a horseradishy taste due to the premature sulfurization of the rind matrix. Serve freshly cudgeled yuckapucks on pre-warmed cork platters with a side of diced turnips in a dimly lit 64 degree room. Yum!
Posted by: Flautist | Jul 26, 2012 12:28:14 PM
Thanks for the tip, George. I'll look for them at Trader Joe's.
Posted by: Kay | Jul 23, 2012 11:17:27 PM
I just picked up some Kumatoes at Trader Joe's. They're excellent! Thanks for the recommendation.
But the name is rather unfortunate. I think I'll just be calling them brown tomatoes.
Posted by: George | Jul 23, 2012 11:06:19 PM
Itso Tru, you're spot-on.
But I cut Cook's Illustrated a lot of slack re: the blizzard of inserts in its newsstand copies, because the magazine relies on subscriptions for 100% of its income, unlike its brethren for whom advertising makes up a large chunk of revenue.
Posted by: bookofjoe | Jul 23, 2012 6:21:15 PM
You should start posting about 50 subscription cards, subscription inserts and subscription covers for your many many cooks ill reposts in such a way that they fall on the keyboard and floor.
Posted by: Itso Tru | Jul 23, 2012 5:00:21 PM
Buy from the farm, IF you can.
"Don't refrigerate. Cold damages enzymes that produce flavor compounds and ruins texture by rupturing tomato cells, turning the flesh mealy."
Posted by: Kay | Jul 23, 2012 1:40:07 PM
Don't overlook the cherry varieties. Many are excellent!
Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Jul 23, 2012 10:50:24 AM
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