Picking the right tomato

CHOICE discovers some delicious varieties of tomatoes to look out for - and how to pick them.
 
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02.Tomato varieties

Some types and varieties of tomato are tastier than others, but even the cheapest “field” tomatoes can have some flavour. In general, look for an even, rich red colour – and check that they’re soft, without being overripe.

The smaller cherry and grape tomatoes are often tastier because they’re likely to have ripened longer on the vine. Furthermore, they’re often sold in plastic trays with a brand name, so if you like them it’s easy to buy them again. It’s worth looking for branded varieties, such as Perfection Fresh, that offer a range of tomato varieties specially developed for good flavour.

And do what you’ll see consumers do so often in markets in France and Italy – pick a tomato up and give it a good sniff. If it doesn’t have a rich aroma it won’t have much flavour.

Varieties

 

Field

These are the basic round tomatoes you see in most supermarkets and fruit shops. The trade description is “gourmet tomatoes”, yet they’re usually the cheapest tomatoes, and ironically are also likely to have the least flavour. Their thick skins make it easy for growers to mechanise harvesting and packing, and they’re likely to be picked green. Don’t be put off by small blemishes, but an uneven colour indicates the tomatoes were picked too green to ripen properly and will have little flavour.

 

Vine-ripened

Vine-ripened tomatoes should have been ripened to full maturity on the plant, rather than picked green, implying they have better flavour. Unfortunately, tomatoes lose flavour from the moment they’re picked – vine-ripened or not. The only way you can tell is from their aroma, but these tomatoes should have more flavour than tomatoes artificially ripened.

 

Truss

These are tomatoes still attached to a section of vine, and again the implication is that they taste better because they look like they’ve been ripened on the vine. But they can also be picked green or only half-ripe and ripened with ethylene before sale, so the flavour is not necessarily that good. Don’t buy them unless the truss is really green; not brown or withered. This can be a problem when truss tomatoes are displayed in the open. They keep better in a plastic bag, which prevents the truss from drying out.

 

Roma

These are egg-shaped tomatoes, not a specific variety. They’re usually redder and softer than field tomatoes, and sometimes taste better. But they’re often picked before they’re fully ripe and artificially ripened with ethylene gas before sale, so they’re not always as tasty as they could be.

 

Cherry

These small round tomatoes are expensive because they’re labour-intensive to produce and harvest. They can be tasty when produced by small local growers who let them ripen longer before picking and sell them fresh.

 

Grape

Grape are like cherry tomatoes, but, as the name suggests, shaped more like a grape. Again, there are several varieties and they can taste delicious if fresh and picked close to maturity. They’re often tastier than cherry tomatoes.

 

Kumato

These black-skinned tomatoes are more expensive but worth buying for their flavour. Tomatoes appear in a range of colours in the wild, and Kumato are part of a trend towards different coloured tomatoes that started in California in the 1990s. There’s also a heritage variety called Russian Black that has been in Australia for about 100 years, but has only recently been grown commercially.

 

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