Can you imagine a cheeseburger without a ripe slice of tomato on it? What about a bowl of spaghetti without an herb-rich tomato sauce? Cultures from all over the world utilize these delicious fruits in eclectic and esoteric ways. Think about the difference in taste between ketchup, salsa and pasta sauce. This broad spectrum of flavor is partially due to variations between, say, American cooking techniques and those of Italy, but also in part because there are so many types of tomatoes. Here’s a basic breakdown of these classic red fruits:
What it means to be heirloom
When a tomato is designated as heirloom it simply means that it is a variety of tomato that has been passed down for several generations, usually over 50 years. Heirloom tomatoes have recently been en vogue as part of the farm-to-table movement. This trend is popular partially because heirloom tomatoes encourage genetic diversity, which helps protect tomatoes from disease and infestation.
These large, orb-shaped fruits are the red tomatoes commonly found in grocery stores. Named for their round shape, globe tomatoes are great for slicing, and their size makes them perfect for sandwiches and burgers.
This variation of tomato is smaller than the normal globe tomatoes that have become the supermarket norm. Plum tomatoes are more egg-shaped, and come in red and yellow colors. Also known as Roma tomatoes, these fruits are preferred for making sauces, because they have less liquid than other varieties, giving them a denser texture. This also makes them easier to can.
At first glance, cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes look very similar. They’re both small and can have a comparable red color. Distinguishing characteristics of cherry tomatoes are that the fruit can be yellow or orange, and is generally spherical in shape. Cherry tomatoes also have a sweeter taste than grape ones. There are thousands of variations of this type of tomato.
This type of tomato has a more oblong shape and is thicker skinned than a cherry one. This gives grape tomatoes a meaty texture so that they pair well with burgers or salads. Grape tomatoes have a more sour taste than cherry tomatoes, but it’s important to get what’s currently in season to get the best flavor.