Strictly speaking, tomatoes are a fruit, and the sweeter cherry tomatoes can be eaten like sweets. But tomatoes are mostly used as if they were a vegetable. Grown on the vine and picked when bright red, plump and juicy, their tangy sweet flavour make them popular to eat raw or to use in cooking. There are hundreds of varieties which vary in size and colour, and the most popular include:
• Beef tomatoes
The size of a fist, these large tomatoes have very thick flesh which make them ideal for stuffing (cut off the tops, scoop out the seeds and fill with minced meats, rice or cous cous and bake). Also good sliced in salad recipes
• Cherry tomatoes
About the size of a large cherry (hence the name), these are usually very sweet and juicy- ideal to eat raw, to add to salads, or to roast and serve with grilled fish and meats. Often sold on the vine, and also available as a yellow-orange variety.
• Plum tomatoes
Longer and more oval in shape, these have a firmer flesh and fewer seeds, which makes them ideal for cooking or using in sauces. Cherry plum tomatoes are also available.
• Round or salad tomatoes
These vary in flavour depending on variety; look for really ripe fruit for the sweetest taste.
Look for plump red tomatoes with wrinkle-free skins and a fragrant smell. The leaves should be bright and perky. Under-ripe tomatoes will ripen at home in a sunny place in a day or two. Read our article on how to choose tomatoes.
Rinse and eat raw, slice, chop or dice. To peel tomatoes, drop them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes then drain and peel. The flavour of tomatoes sweetens when roasted or grilled: cut in half and drizzle with olive oil and seasoning before doing so. Basil is the perfect herb to combine with tomatoes in salads and sauces. A scattering of salt (which should, of course, be consumed in moderation) is another great way to bring out their flavour.
Tomatoes are best kept at room temperature or in the sun where they will ripen and sweeten. Once ripe, keeping them in the fridge will prolong their life a little longer, but take them out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving for the best flavour.
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