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A Field Guide to Tomatoes

Improve your nightshade knowledge
Guide to tomatoes
Photo: Tasting Table

"There's a perfect moment for a tomato, and then it's gone," says Tim Stark, author of Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer.

Before that happens, let's celebrate the beauty and colorful variety of our favorite nightshade.

Green Zebra
Popularized by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame. Seductive emerald skin with yellow zebra stripes. Higher in acidity than most tomatoes, this nightshade benefits by being paired with sweet items such as chard or corn to balance the fruit's acidity.

Sun Gold
These small guys are the sweetest of the bunch. Grown in gem-like, long clusters and prized among chefs for their slight citrusy acidity and a lingering sweetness. Halve and toss in salads or just pop in your mouth for a quick snack.

Indigo Rose
Small, purple-hued, with a near perfect balance of acidity and sugar. One of the few tomatoes with American roots as they were bred at Oregon State University to check levels of antioxidants.

Cuore de Toro
An excellent Italian heirloom named for the shape of an ox's heart. Very little acidity and low water content make it very sweet and perfect in any shape or form; raw in a salad or cooked down to sauce. Our favorite.

Plum tomatoes
Bred for sauces and paste. The most famous variety are the storied Italian San Marzano variety which have a thinner skin and more pointed bottom.

Garden Peach
Named for its light fuzzy exterior. Mild fruity flavor. Eat them raw with a pinch of crunchy salt or in a salad with arugula and sharp red wine vinegar.

Solar Flare
Captivatingly fire-striped and super juicy. Crack free and pristine, they should be present just as they are.

Cherry tomatoes
Full-flavored, easy to find in grocery stores year round. But summer's when these super sweet tomatoes are the best. Cut them in half and make a tomato cucumber salad or roast them slowly in the oven.

Gold Dust
Firm fleshed, low acidity. Uniform shape lends itself to layering on sandwiches, tarts and pizzas.

Beefsteak variety. Perfect sweet and acidic balance. Grown in a variety of colors, it's full-flavor and floral quality make it the perfect complement for a BLT.


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