My irrational fear of tomatoes…..

Just back from Publix (our grocery store), picking up the few items I needed.  I get most of my food from Costco and Whole Foods, but there are still certain things I need to pick up at Publix.  I love Publix!  It truly is a pleasure shopping there (their motto).  It’s clean, well organized, everyone is helpful, and they take your groceries out to your car.  I do feel blessed to have Publix and Whole Foods just about 5 minutes away from my house.  It’s great!

Back to the point of this post.  Hubby and I are very finicky tomato eaters.  It is something we have in common.  Funny, actually.  He and I both like tomatoes in things…..ketchup, spaghetti sauce, chili, salsa, soups and various other things.  Our main thing…we don’t like the mushiness and seeds of tomatoes.  Therefore you will never catch us eating raw tomato slices on a sandwich or hamburger.  No chunks of tomato in soups and stews and sauces.  Interestingly we do like bruschetta and pico di gallo. 

Over the years…especially the past 5 yrs for me…I’ve gotten less picky about the chunks.  Especially since discovering Rotel mexican style.  I’ve also gotten good at making my own from scratch pizza sauce, and I don’t mind chunks of tomato in soups, stews and such.  Hubby…..not so much.

So as I’ve been getting more and more into fresh, organic, local…..I’ve started really wanting to overcome my fear of tomatoes.  Though I don’t like the seed taste, or really even the “fresh” taste of pure tomato…well there just has to be a type of tomato in which I’d like the flavor.  There are so many….roma, plum, vine, beefsteak…and my mom has me pick up these lovely Campari tomatoes at costco.  If I buy the right tomato and dice it and flavor it appropriately, I should be able to start cooking with them, don’t you think?

And though I swear I don’t like the “fresh” taste of tomato…they have to be tastier than the canned organic diced tomatoes I buy now, right?  If I add enough garlic and olive oil they do take on another flavor, right? 

I’ve been wanting to try making bruschetta lately.  They have wonderful bruschetta at the restaurant where I work….only red tomato, yellow tomato, red onion, olive oil & garlic.  It is delicious!  So tonight I almost bought fresh tomatoes for the first time…ever!?  $4.09 a pound!  I was only getting 4 small tomatoes for that.  I put them back.  The Campari tomatoes are a much better deal at Coscto…the ones I pick up for my mom.  They are $5.49 for about 12.  And they actually look and smell like they taste good. 

I know it’s winter and all, but here in South Florida this is when our farmer’s markets are in full swing!!!  Yes….that’s right.  We are on an opposite gardening schedule than most of the country.  Our farmer’s markets are open Oct through April/May.  It’s just too hot for a lot of produce in the summer. 

So a few questions for you tomato lovers…..or at least those of you not scared of them:

* What type of tomato do you like the best for Italian dishes (pasta, bruschetta, etc).

* What is your favorite type of tomato & why?  How does it taste?

* Where do you get the best deal on your tomatoes?  How much do you pay?

* Any tips for fresh tomato newbies like me???  Especially since I don’t like seeds and mush. 

* How do I store them properly?

Thanks so much for your help!!  I really have no idea what I’m doing, and I do want to demystify the tomato!  I’m actually hoping to not only overcome my fear….but hey, maybe I’ll actually start to like them a little.

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19 Responses to My irrational fear of tomatoes…..

  1. Peg4Jesus7 says:

    I LOVE fresh tomatoes. Ever have a tomato sandwich? Good fresh bakery bread, mayo, tomato slices and salt & pepper ~ yum!

    I don't think any tomato compares to homegrown (Terry says hers that are fertilized w/vermicompost are the absolute best!), and heirlooms are supposed to be the best varieties.

    Having said that, I do spend the $ for the ones "on the vine" at Publix; I think they have the best taste for store-bought tomatoes. They need to be deep red. I have heard the "ugly" tomatoes are supposed to taste like homegrown, but I can't vouch for that.

    Romas are supposed to be best for sauce, though I confess, I've never made mine from fresh tomatoes.

    I keep mine on the counter until I cut them, then any cut piece goes in the fridge in a ziploc. Keeping air in the ziploc helps keep it from getting squished.

    HTH! -Peg

  2. Nutmeg Nanny says:

    I'm weird when it comes to tomatoes. I do not fear them but I only like them if I'm eating them raw with salt and pepper, on a tomato sandwich or cooked in with pasta. I can't just put tomato on any old sandwich or eat it in salad…nope not for me. Here are my answers to your questions:

    I personally like roma or vine on tomatoes. Yellow tomatoes are not that bad either.

    My favorite types of tomatoes to eat is vine on or fresh from the garden big boy tomatoes. I find them to have a nice tomato flavor, not overly sweet but not too much acid.

    I get my best deal at the farmers market. In the summer I can get six medium size tomatoes for somewhere around $1.50

    Don't force yourself to eat fresh tomatoes if you don't like them. The biggest thing is to make sure you are buying good tomatoes. When they sit around for too long they get mealy and that is gross….yuck!

    Never ever ever put tomatoes in the fridge. It makes them get mushy and mealy. Neither of which makes for good eating.

    Oh another idea for eating tomatoes is that if you do not like the insides…don't eat them. My mom used to cut off the tops, scoop out the insides and stuff them with tuna salad. We would eat them in the summer and it was delicious. Never though tomato would pair so nicely with tuna…yum! Large tomatoes work best for that recipe 🙂

  3. Moni says:

    I'm a fan of grape tomatoes. They're wonderful additions to salads and are a nice bite size for snackable veggies. It's also easy to halve them and toss them last minute into stir fries or sautes or even in sandwiches. They're especially nice when good big tomatoes are off season and flavorless.

  4. Denise says:

    Peg – great tips!! Thanks. So different tomatoes have different flavors? Of course…makes sense. This may help with a suggestion for me…I don't like yellow onions (too strong) but love sweet onions. So is there a tomato that is more sweet or less acid? I do like sun-dried tomatoes! What does roasting do to them?

    Nutmeg – what a great deal on those tomatoes. I'll have to ask my mom what they're going for at the farmer's market. Yes, I have found I like the outside of the tomato. Nothing grosses me out more than the seeds (like when they are on salads).

    Moni – I completely forgot about grape and cherry tomatoes. Is there a difference between those? One of my daughters loves grape tomatoes.

  5. Simply Life says:

    Tomatoes are actually my favorite vegetable but my husband doesn't like them either! I have gradually been working on this with him and he does really like sun-dried tomatoes now! I would also start with cherry tomatoes since they're so small and not over-powering if added to a big dish.

    To answer your question: I would definitely try gelato! I would say it's the in-between of sorbet and ice cream. It's nice a creamy but not too heavy!

  6. ButterYum says:

    Tomatoes?… now you're talking my language!

    Fresh Tomatoes:
    Italian plumb tomatoes which are fleshier with fewer seeds (Roma, San Marzano, etc) – great for eating raw or cooking.

    A good generic grocery store variety to consider are the tomatoes that are sold "on the vine". Check to see if the vine is still green and fresh looking… this will ensure your tomatoes will keep fresh longer (as they age, the vine will get dryer and dryer, but the tomatoes will be fine). The attached vine is like tomato insurance.
    🙂

    Another great grocery store recommendation would be grape or cherry tomatoes (each named for their resemblance respectively) – just watch that you don't get old ones (which will have kind of translucent spots (I pick up the container and look at the bottom, etc). Their skin should be opaque.

    Summertime garden grown tomatoes are always the best in flavor and the meatiest in texture – especially the older "heirloom" varieties that you can get at a farmer's market where they're usually reasonable priced as well.

    Tomato experts agree that you should not refrigerate fresh whole tomatoes – it zaps their flavor and changes their texture.
    One of a fresh tomatoes best friends is salt (and pepper if you like, but salt is a must) – I like Kosher salt. Also basil and tomato are a flavor match made in heaven!

    Canned Tomatoes:
    The very best Canned Variety is San Marzano tomatoes – various manufacturer's sell them. They are more expensive that other canned tomatoes, but they are very low in acid and taste heavenly. I get mine at Costco.

    Also, I don't like diced canned tomatoes – they never seem to break down during cooking, so I always substitute canned whole or crushed tomatoes instead.

    Here are a couple of tomato blog posts I've done. You might enjoy them.

    http://butteryum.blogspot.com/2009/08/making-sun-dried-tomatoes-at-home.html

    http://butteryum.blogspot.com/2009/04/caprese-pasta-salad-basil-tomato.html

    http://butteryum.blogspot.com/2009/06/san-marzano-tomato-sauce-homemade.html

    Enjoy!
    🙂
    ButterYum

  7. Kate at Serendipity says:

    Denise, I didn't like tomatoes when I was growing up. I hated the acid taste and the seeds. Now I love them. Tastes change.

    In any case, there are some things you can do since you've identified that it's the seeds and the mushiness that you don't like. In Italy they often cut them in half, scoop out the seeds and the stuff in the middle, and then grate them on an old-fashioned box grater–use the biggest holes. Hold the flesh side towards the grater and go till there's nothing left but skin. Be careful doing this, but when you're finished you'll have a wonderful fresh tomato 'passata' that you can use for sauce or a bruschetta–it won't have the skin and the pieces will be smaller. Of course you need a good tomato to do this with. Vine ripened.

    If you have some good grape or cherry tomatoes, you can cut them in half or quarters and put them in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil over them and bake them at 200 F or 100 C for about 4 hours. This will give you a semi-dried tomato that keeps well in the fridge for a week or so. We use this for bruschetta at our house. (we can only do this in the summer, when we have good tomatoes).

    Canned tomatoes are usually canned at the peak of their flavor. I use them in the winter instead of the greenhouse tomatoes. They're wonderful for sauces and pasta dishes and pizza. Dont' be afraid of them!

    I think someone already said that you shouldn't put them in the fridge. I don't even wash them till I'm ready to use them.

    Good for you for looking for ways to use them that you'll like. Let us know how it goes, ok?

  8. Susan-CookingtoSave says:

    Well, we are weirdos in our house too, neither my husband nor I, nor 2 of the 3 kids like raw tomatoes! It is a problem! I did recently find something that changed a lot opinions in my house though…. homemade salsa! So good, even with all those chopped up tomatoes! 🙂

    What a great post, I am learning a lot about those "red things"!! 🙂

  9. Denise says:

    Butter Yum – Thanks for sharing….can't wait to check out your links!! Lots of great info.

    Kate – Thanks for stopping by! I can't wait to try your tip with the grater. Amazing idea. You are a wealth of info & I hope to "see" you again.

    Susan – I know…I know a lot of people IRL that are like my husband and I. One of my daughters is the same way, and the other one pops whole grape tomatoes in her mouth RAW. 😉

    Have you tried the RoTel (diced tomatoes)? The mexican (cilantro/lime) ones are the ones that I can now eat. I put mexican rotel on all my tacos, tostadas, with black beans, nachos, anywhere. They are soo tasty and the closest I've come to raw tomatoes in a long time. Now the bruschetta. I think I may have reached a turning point with tomatoes….

    especially thanks to all the ladies here that have shared so much valuable insight into dealing with tomatoes. I knew there was a lot to learn…just never knew how much I wanted to until recently.

    This has been a great conversation….my first real one on the blog….YAY….so if any others have anything to add, please chime in!

  10. Jen S. says:

    I also believe that grape and cherry tomatoes are great "intro" tomatoes. They are sweet and so small that the juices cannot offend. My favorite tomato is a homegrown yellow grape tomato.

    You know, I usually scoop out the guts and seeds when I put tomatoes in salads, so don't be afraid to just jettison those sometimes bitter parts!

    In Barcelona there is a whole different way of looking at tomatoes. You get hard – even greenish – ones for salad. The soft (ripe), red ones are to be split in half and smooshed all over a crusty loaf of bread. They you pour some olive oil on the tomato smoosh, and sprinkle that with salt. Delicious.

    I recommend tasting at a farmers' market. If stalls don't let me taste, I walk away.

    Gosh, Florida. I am so far from tomatoes here in the Pacific Northwest!

  11. Krissy @ The Food Addicts says:

    awww that's too bad that you fear tomatoes!! they are such an amazing fruit – it's a fruit right? because it has seeds? haha. well, my husband and i grow them in our garden every spring/summer and we always have an abundance of fresh organic tomatoes. bruschetta is always a wonderful dish to prepare!

  12. Jules says:

    Love your blog! My son does not like chunky sauce either, so I puree everything in the food processor. I use Pomi boxed tomatoes for my sauce–they are real italian tomatoes and sweeter than American.

    My favorite tomatoes for bruchetta are italian plum tomatoes or my all time FAVORITE…heirloom tomatoes (you can usually find at a farmers market). Try grape tomatoes for your salads–they have less seeds and are sweet and juicy, not mushy!

    Tomatoes get eaten fast around here, but I had been told in the past that storing them in a bowl with apples ripens them.

    Jules from alittlebiteoflife.net

  13. Velva says:

    Denise, funny I should visit your blog today. I had the opportunity to be a guest blogger. My post was about the plight of the migrant workers who harvests tomatoes in south Florida-check it out at http://www.secretinnerlife.com

    I love fresh tomatoes….They can be chunky or smooth. I really enjoy picking up heirloom tomatoes at the local farmer's market ( out of season at this time) but, Lil yellers ( small yellow cherry tomatoes and beefsteaks are probably my favorite). In the summer months, we are eating tomatoes glaore in our family.
    Great post!
    btw, I love Publix too.

  14. Holly Keegan says:

    Denise-
    I just got your post on my blog and we do have much in common already! 🙂
    First, I also used to live in south Florida- Delray Beach, actually. We left in 2007. You can thank us for not having any more hurricanes. They stopped the year we moved. And now DC is having the worst winter EVER- is it us???
    More important topics… tomatoes. Here's where we have another thing in common. I hated (truly truly hated) tomatoes until I turned 21. The story is much longer than necessary for this comment, but lets just say my life changed when I started eating them. On to your blog questions…
    Type: my favorite to eat are cherry, grape and heirloom, oh- and campari
    Best deal? When they're in season they are much less expensive
    Don't like seeds? Seed them! Cut them in half and scoop out all the goo with your finger. Then you are only eating flesh and not getting seeds and that bizarre gooey stuff.
    How to store? NEVER refrigerate your tomatoes. Seriously… don't do it. Once you've cut them, I guess you can/ should, but before that point, leave 'em out! 🙂
    I'm so glad you connected with me! I like your blog so far and look forward to reading more of what you've got to say! Especially since we have so much in common after all…

  15. Viveca Park says:

    As you know, Denise, I love tomatoes. What you may not know, is that when I was young (even up to young adulthood, I also didn't care for the tomato chunks in my soup. They were gross. I finally overcame this, but don't ask me how. Of course, you know as a raw foodist, I don't cook anything anymore, except for under 105 degrees in my dehydrator. So the only tomatoes I eat now are raw. I do also use sun dried tomatoes that I've soaked in olive oil and basil.

  16. wenchie says:

    I suspect that the tomatoes we get here (scotland) will be substantially different to the varieties you get (and a well travelled tomato isn't liable to be too good!).

    When you're picking out your tomatoes do make sure and smell them, they should smell slightly herby, almost basilly – especially if they're still on the vine (which as many commenters have said, keeps them better) – and never kept in the fridge. If they're not totally ripe, or you're about to use them, try putting them on a sunny windowsill, otherwise keep them on a shady shelf and just let them be.

    A good dressing, with salt and black pepper freshly ground into it, will bring out their flavour beautifully, as will a little balsamic vinegar. The trick is to chop the tomatoes and let them settle in the dressing a wee while before you use them (and not worry if the seeds seperate and become part of the dressing).

    Fresh tomoatoes with bland, undeveloped flavours are revolting, but lovely aromatic tomatoes are a wonderful thing!

  17. Kelley says:

    Those tomatoes you buy in the store are hardly tomatoes. The only tomato worth eating is homegrown, so grow your own! That is what I do. And if you aren't interested in that, buy local ones from a farmer. You may discover that you love tomatoes. The difference between these and store-bought is night and day.

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