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Tomato Guide: Savor the Season

Local farmers’ markets are loaded down with tomatoes of all varieties this month! The Raleigh Downtown Farmers Market and Midtown Farmers Market both recently featured tomato tasting market days, and Saturday is Tomato Day at the Western Wake Farmers’ Market in Cary. Many thanks to the Raleigh Downtown Farmers’ Market for allowing us to reprint its Tomato Guide from its recent enewsletter. They offer great information on locally grown tomatoes, how to store them and quick, healthy ideas for enjoying them!

What makes a local tomato so good and good for you?

Kellogg’s Breakfast heirloom tomatoes

There are thousands of tomato varieties out there; local tomato farmers prioritize characteristics like flavor, disease resistance, and nutritional content. Your local farmers can grow tomatoes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and tastes, and they are full of Vitamin C and antioxidants!

Your typical grocery store tomato comes to you from about 1,500 or more miles away. To accommodate for all this traveling, the commercial tomato varieties are selected for durability and sphere shape for picking and packaging. Taste, variety, and nutrient content are simply not the top priorities.

What are heirloom tomatoes and why do they cost more?

Heirloom tomatoes are varieties that have been passed down from generation to generation for over 50 years because of their valued characteristics including taste and texture. They are often more delicate, flavorful, and juicier than conventional tomatoes.

Ask your farmer about different varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

Because of their delicate nature, they are harder to store and produce than many other breeds. Since they are harder to grow and produce less fruit per vine than other varieties, they often cost slightly more. However, this premium price is worth the taste!

So tomatoes aren’t just red and round?

No way, tomatoes come in all sorts of colors and sizes including red, greens, purples, and more! Check out unique colors and shapes at area farmers’ markets!Check out these colorful and flavorful varieties: Cherokee Purple, Lillian’s Yellow, Sungold, Red Brandywine, Celebrity, German Johnson, Rose, Orange Banana, Rainbow, First Prize, Kelloggs Breakfast and Cosmo.

How should I store my tomatoes?

NEVER put your maters in the refrigerator! It ruins the flavors. They can be held at room temperature for up to 1 week, depending on ripeness, and underripe tomatoes will continue to ripen if stored out of the sun. Salsas, sauces, and purees freeze well, and are a simple way to enjoy tomatoes year-round. Of course, you can can tomatoes too!

What are some quick and easy tomato ideas?

  • Sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and topped with fresh basil or parsley
  • Tomato and mayonnaise sandwich with a touch of salt and pepper – a Southern favorite
  • Bruschetta – add diced tomatoes, peppers, and onions to a touch of olive oil, and serve on a toasted baguette with fresh mozzarella.
  • They can be sautéed, baked, broiled, or grilled! Check out Tarheel Foodie’s blog on roasting tomatoes.

In Search of Local Tomatoes

Wake County is home to numerous farmers’ markets and roadside stands bursting with lots of tomato varieties and other seasonal fruits and veggies right now. Consult AHA’s farmers’ market map to find a market near your home or office and explore!

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