Harvest of the Month: Tomatoes

First things first: Technically, the tomato is a fruit – so ruled because of its botanical make-up. Functionally, though, tomatoes tend to be treated as vegetables, a point that even the U.S. Supreme Court addressed in the 19th century, when it ruled that tomato should be treated (and taxed) as a vegetable.

None of that matters when it comes to eating a tomato, of course, which is one of nature’s most versatile products. Tasty when eaten raw, it also can form the foundation for countless prepared foods, from relishes and soups to sauces and side dishes – a somewhat surprising outcome for a fruit that was considered poisonous by American colonists.

While most tomatoes ripen to a bright red, tomato varieties range from yellow to purple when ripe. Regardless of the variety, though, when choosing a tomato, look for a fruit that is firm, glossy, smooth and plump. Avoid ones with bruises, soft spots or other damage.

Tomatoes will continue to ripen after you buy them, so be aware of how quickly you’ll use them when purchasing them. If you buy them fully ripe, you can store them in the refrigerator, but the cold air could affect the flavor. The best option? Pick ’em ripe and eat ’em as soon as possible.

Try tomatoes in Chef John’s Gazpacho.

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