Selecting, Storing, and Serving Ohio Tomatoes

HYG-5532
Family and Consumer Sciences
Date: 
07/13/2021
Revised 2021: Lisa Barlage, Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension
Revised 2010: Julie Kennel Shertzer, Program Specialist, Human Nutrition
Original reviewers: Lydia Medeiros, PhD, RD, Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, and Richard C. Funt, Specialist, Ohio State University Extension
Original author: Barbara H. Drake, Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Tomatoes are cultivated and used as a vegetable. Botanically, they are a fruit, being fleshy and containing many seeds. Regardless of how you classify them, they remain an Ohio favorite because of their versatility and flavor. Close up of cherry tomatoes rinsed with water and collected in a bowl.

For information on tomato varieties in Ohio, contact your county educator in agriculture and natural resources at Ohio State University Extension, or a master gardener volunteer.

Selection

  • Tomatoes can be red, orange, orange-pink, burgundy, green, purple, or yellow when ripe, depending on variety.
  • Sizes range from the very small cherry/grape to oval or pear shaped (used for tomato sauce or pasta) to large, round, slicing tomatoes.
  • Select tomatoes that are firm, glossy, smooth, and plump. Avoid those that are extremely soft, bruised, cracked, or otherwise damaged by insects, disease, or handling.
  • Purchase tomatoes at various stages of ripeness, and then use the ripest tomatoes first. 
  • Always remember, tomatoes can ripen after picking. A fully ripe tomato is fragrant and gives slightly under pressure.

Yield

Due to many variables such as moisture content, size, and variety, it is difficult to give specific recommendations. The recommendations below are approximations.

  • 1 pound of tomatoes = approximately 3 medium tomatoes or 8 plum tomatoes
  • 1 bushel of tomatoes = 53–56 pounds
  • 1 bushel of tomatoes = 16–18 quarts canned

Nutrition

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2½ cups of a variety of vegetables each day as part of a healthy diet. Tomatoes are associated with a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers because they contain phytonutrients like lycopene, which are found naturally in plants.

  • One medium tomato contains about 35 calories.
  • Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and A.
  • They contain small amounts of the B vitamins, iron, manganese, fiber, and potassium.

Storage

  • Ripen tomatoes at room temperature (70 F) with the smooth end down and stem end up.
  • Sunlight is not necessary to ripen. Placing tomatoes in the window is not recommended because it can result in overheating, which prevents good color and flavor development, and increases the chance of decay.
  • Once tomatoes are fully ripe, store them in a cool area.
  • An excess of fully ripe tomatoes may be stored in the refrigerator for 2–3 weeks. Tomatoes will not ripen any further in refrigeration, but they may become mealy, soft, and lose flavor. Refrigeration slows spoilage.
  • Wash tomatoes just before serving. Do not use soap, detergent, or bleach because these liquids absorb into the vegetable.

Serving 

  • If your recipe calls for peeled tomatoes, dip tomato in boiling water for 30 seconds, plunge into cold water, drain, and peel skin. Close-up of fresh-picked tomatoes still on the vine.
  • Seed tomatoes easily by cutting the tomato in half crosswise, hold the cut tomato over a bowl, and scoop out seeds with a spoon.
  • For best flavor, serve tomatoes at room temperature.
  • Serve tomatoes raw or cooked. Try them in salads, sandwiches, salsas, soups, stews, and sauces, whether they’re baked, broiled, grilled, or roasted.
  • Top tomatoes with fresh or dried herbs, such as basil, oregano, tarragon, thyme, or curry powder.
  • Stuff large tomatoes with tuna, chicken, egg salad, or cottage cheese.
  • Stuff cherry tomatoes for bite-size appetizers. To prepare, slice off tops and remove a very thin slice off the bottom so they will stand. Remove seeds and juice with a melon scoop. Stuff with your favorite fillings.
  • For a Caprese salad or appetizer, layer sliced tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and fresh mozzarella cheese. Dress lightly with olive oil.

Bruschetta Salad 

Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 5 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 cups chopped Roma tomatoes
  • ½ cup chopped red onion
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped basil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 cups croutons

Preparation Instructions

  1. Combine the tomatoes, onion, basil, salt, black pepper, vinegar, and oil in a bowl. 
  2. Stir croutons in the salad and serve.

For information on preserving tomatoes, contact your local OSU Extension office for the following fact sheets:

References

FoodData Central. n.d. U.S. Department of Agriculture (website), accessed July 1, 2021. fdc.nal.usda.gov

Kralj, Richard Andrew. 2017. “Health Benefits of Tomatoes.”  Penn State Extension (website). extension.psu.edu/health-benefits-of-tomatoes

McGarry, Joyce. Using, Storing and Preserving Tomatoes. Extension Bulletin HN17. East Lansing: Michigan State University, 2012. PDF. canr.msu.edu/uploads/resources/pdfs/Tomatoes_(HNI17).pdf

National Center for Home Food Preservation. n.d. University of Georgia, College of Family and Consumer Sciences (website). Accessed July 2, 2021. nchfp.uga.edu

Oregon State University, n.d. “Bruschetta Salad.” Food Hero (website). Accessed July 2, 2021. foodhero.org/recipes/bruschetta-salad