Cocktail Tomatoes Provide A Touch Of Sweetness Any Time Of Year

When it comes to tomatoes, there is nothing worse than a mealy one. Many of the store-bought tomatoes that you can find in the off-season lack punch, flavor, and texture. In comparison to a fresh, in-season farmer's market tomato, there really isn't a contest. 

It is generally better to shop for what is in season in your area. But if you need to buy tomatoes in the winter, there are some in the store that may taste consistently better than others. Cocktail tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) provide a ready solution. Grown in California year-round, they are small-fruited, meaning that the flavor of the tomato is concentrated. You can leave the big beefsteak and heirloom tomatoes waiting until the summer, and still get your tomato fix with cocktail tomatoes in the colder months. Cocktail tomatoes are flavorful fruits that can bring a burst of taste to your favorite dishes even in the winter.

What are cocktail tomatoes?

Cocktail tomatoes are small tomatoes that grow in clusters on the vine, and are nightshades that are part of the family Solanaceae. They are similar to grape or cherry tomatoes, but they are slightly larger and rounder, as opposed to slightly oblong like grape tomatoes. Typically, their size is about 2-3 centimeters across, making them about the size of a ping pong ball. You can find these in the grocery store or the farmer's market, and you can even grow them yourself in a home garden. It is common to see these labeled as "Campari tomatoes" in grocery stores. Campari tomatoes are a type of cocktail tomato.

Cocktail tomatoes are often grown hydroponically. Hydroponics is when plants are grown in solutions comprising minerals and nutrients and water in lieu of dirt. The process is typically faster and is often considered a more environmentally-friendly alternative to growing crops in soil because it uses fewer resources. 

What do cocktail tomatoes taste like?

The driving taste of these tomatoes is sweet. They typically have a burst of flavor that is bright and pleasantly dulcet. This sets cocktail tomatoes apart in comparison to other varieties that perhaps have a more earthy flavor. This sweetness can be deepened when the tomatoes are cooked, caramelizing the tomatoes into a savory delight. This versatility makes cocktail tomatoes a great flavor on their own, and also an excellent thing to pair with other savory elements such as cheese and fish.

The texture of the cocktail tomato also contributes to its taste. Because it is small, biting into one of these tomatoes accentuates its juiciness by bursting open in your mouth. This is one of the qualities that makes these tomatoes ideal for snacking on raw or adding to salads once they have been halved or quartered. Once cooked, the texture becomes pleasantly jammy.

How to cook with cocktail tomatoes

Cocktail tomatoes are versatile and delicious. Because they are so sweet and juicy when they are fresh, you do not even need to cook them in order to enjoy them. Halve or quarter cocktail tomatoes to add them to this fresh caprese salad

But cooking cocktail tomatoes can help caramelize the sweetness, making them the perfect pairing for other savory flavors. Try, for example, these grilled halloumi and tomato skewers. Alternatively, this recipe for pasta with burrata and charred tomatoes will have you convinced that slightly burning your cocktail tomatoes is the only way to go.

Unlike some fruits and vegetables, there are only a few steps to take to get cocktail tomatoes ready to cook. Simply rinse them with water, being careful not to bruise them, and de-stem them. From there, you can add them to your recipe or eat them just as they are.

Where to buy cocktail tomatoes?

You will find cocktail tomatoes in the produce section of your local grocery store. They are sold in bunches, not individually like bigger tomatoes. As such, look for cocktail tomatoes in little boxes or containers, likely next to the grape and cherry tomatoes. If you want to be sure you are getting the highest possible quality, there are some tips and tricks you should know about assessing tomatoes in the store. For example, the heavier a tomato is, the juicier it is likely to be. Check for blemishes, and if you can do so, smell the tomatoes near their stems. The more fragrant a tomato is, the more delicious you can expect it to be.

You can also likely find cocktail tomatoes at your local farm stand or farmer's market. These markets will be based on seasonal availability. However, it is likely that grocery stores in the United States will carry cocktail tomatoes all year round.

Nutritional information about cocktail tomatoes

Tomatoes are rich in vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamins C, E and A. They are also fruits that are high in water content but low in calories. Tomatoes are also really good sources of antioxidants, which protect your body against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to more serious conditions such as heart disease. Tomatoes are particularly rich in one of these antioxidants called lycopene. Lycopene gives the tomato its beautiful red color, and has been studied for its potential to help with diseases. There is research potentially linking tomatoes as beneficial in reducing risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and more, as well as aiding in male fertility and exercise recovery.

Tomatoes, and probably lycopene in particular, are also good for your skin, helping promote the production of pro-collagen. Collagen keeps your skin looking smooth. Here's a tip — eat tomatoes cooked with olive oil, because the fat in the olive oil increases your absorption of lycopene from the tomato!