Posted on 27 March 2008 by

How to Pick a Good Tomato

Is the Heirloom Tomato You Bought Organic? - TomatoCasual.comBy Michelle Fabio

In a perfect world, we’d all have our choice of homegrown tomatoes from our own gardens every day. In the real world, though, sometimes we just have to go and buy tomatoes.

Indeed, Tomato Casual reader Renee has been faced with the challenge, and asks:

“I need to know how heirloom tomatoes are supposed to feel when I choose the ones to buy. I know that sounds strange, but all the ones I have found have been pretty squishy.”

Drop that tomato Renee!

OK, it’s better if you gently put it back where you found it, but under no circumstances should you buy a tomato that is anything less than firm. Otherwise you’re looking at a tomato whose shelf life is fading fast–meaning it has already lost taste, texture, and nutrients and is also becoming a breeding ground of bacteria.

So how do you pick a good tomato?

Here are the three F’s you should look for:

Freshness. If they look old and, ahem, wrinkled, they are. Pass them by.
Firm, soft skin. A good tomato will feel solid in your hand and not cower to your touch.
Free of spots, holes, or bruises. These small blemishes can quickly turn into a big ole rotting tomato, so steer clear.

Note that you do want to get tomatoes that are fairly ripe, but even ones that are a little under-ripe will do just fine so long as you have a nice spot ready for them. Some recommend putting them in paper bags or wrapping them in newspaper while others say a windowsill works just fine.

I usually just put mine on the counter out of direct sunlight, and my tomatoes stay for about a week–if we don’t eat them all first.

You can experiment with these methods, of course, but so long as you’ve chosen a fresh, cool place for ripening, your tomatoes should do just fine, Heirloom or otherwise.

Happy picking!

5 Responses to “How to Pick a Good Tomato”

  1. Nancy Bond Says:

    Great tips!

  2. Teresa Says:

    Excellent advice. I would add another F: fragrance. If the tomato smells fresh from the garden and tomato vine-y, it’s a keeper. Or, rather, an eater 😉

  3. michelle Says:

    Excellent point Teresa–I love that earthy tomato smell when I’m lucky enough to smell it 😉

    And thanks Nancy!

  4. Lee Haygood Says:

    I have found that if you look at a tomato on the top side, & it has a scar like mark( long or short), they always turn out full & meaty & flavorable.

  5. Robert Leblanc Says:

    This is lousy advice. This describes how to pick a tomato that looks good and feels good but doesn’t necessarily taste good. There are lots of tomatoes available today that are fresh, firm and spotless but totally lacking in flavor. I have come to the conclusion that the only way to be sure of getting a good tomato today is to buy a time machine, zip back to the 70’s or early 80’s and buy one. Lousy tomato varieties abound in today’s markets and it doesn’t matter what the sign says. Brandywine, Beefsteak, whatever you always get the same lousy perfectly round, perfectly red, unblemished tomato that is totally lacking in flavor and is never a real Brandywine or a Beefsteak or any other flavorful variety.

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