Love heirloom tomatoes? Feel like crying every time one turns rotten before you’ve had a chance to eat it? Problem is, many of us are mistreating our poor tomatoes and don’t even realize it. Here are 5 handy hints to help you enjoy those fresh garden tomatoes.
1) If you’re a gardener, don’t yank an heirloom tomato off the vine.
When removing heirloom tomatoes from the vine use scissors to cut them from the stem. Heirloom tomatoes have deep stems, so if you try to yank an heirloom tomato from the plant, you’ll wind up leaving half your tomato behind. Further, heirlooms require a gentle touch. Cut the stem and allow the tomato to drop softly into your open palm.
2) Don’t stack tomatoes on top of each other.
While those rock-hard, orange tomatoes at the supermarket are bred to resist any type of damage from impact, most tomatoes, especially heirlooms, are prone to splitting if you simply look at them the wrong way. Their fragile skin isn’t meant for stacking. In fact, when I place them in my harvesting basket, I make sure there’s space between every single tomato. No touching at all.
3) Don’t put your tomatoes in the fridge!
Chilling tomatoes actually renders them tasteless. It eliminates many of the volatile chemicals that produce the fruit’s flavor. While I fully appreciate the desire to extend the life of your happy tomato, you’re actually sentencing it to death by putting it in your fridge.
Fresh garden tomatoes, particularly the heirloom variety, need to be eaten or processed within days of being picked: 1 or 2 days, not 5. Eat them raw in a salad, turn them into sauce for winter, or give them away to eager neighbors who’ve been eyeing those beauties over the fence. Don’t wait.
4) Don’t store your tomato on its rump.
Heirloom tomatoes are like babies—they have sensitive bottoms. The soft skin can’t bear the weight of these heavy fruits. Instead, they prefer to relax on their heads: stem side down. I place mine upside down on a cooling rack. The holes allow a perfect place for any long stems to poke through so you don’t have to rest the tomato on its side (also a no-no).
5) Don’t wait to enjoy your tomatoes.
There’s nothing better than a just-picked heirloom tomato! If you’re buying from a local farmers’ market, only buy what you intend to eat within a few days. These tasty treats just don’t last. Meet them on their terms—I promise, it will improve your relationship.