How do you know what kind of tomato you should buy when you go to the store? This guide identifies 5 common tomatoes, what they taste like, and what types of dishes go with the different tomato varieties.
The largest type of tomato is called the Beefsteak. It has lots of seeds, is juicy, sometimes sour – sometimes sweet, and can grow up to a pound or more. These types of tomatoes are most often grown locally and are good for salads, slicing for sandwiches, making salsa or as a pizza topping. They can also be used to make sauce but are typically acidic so cooks will mix plum tomatoes with beefsteaks, and a bit of sugar to tone the flavor down.
The second type of tomato that is relatively large is called the Plum tomato. Plum tomatoes are typically oblong in shape and are meatier than the other varieties. These tomatoes have few seeds and are not juicy at all. The plum variety of tomato is often used to make tomato pastes, ketchups, tomato based soups and chili. Of all the tomatoes, this variety is the mildest, with a rich, hearty flavor.
Campari tomatoes are often found in bundles still attached to their vines in clusters at the supermarket. These European hybrid tomatoes are a mid-sized variety. They look like a smaller, more refined version of the beefsteak but are easier to handle. Campari tomatoes have seeds, they are juicy and not too sweet, but sport the traditional “tomato-y” flavor for salads, garnishes or sliced for sandwiches. These are a bit more expensive than the beefsteaks but if you can afford them, they are the best in my opinion.
Cherry tomatoes are another variety of tomato. Traditionally cherry tomatoes have been red, and are the smallest of the tomato varieties. New hybrids like the Sun Gold Cherry tomato ripen to a golden orange. Cherry tomatoes are usually very sweet, but they can also sometimes be sour and acidic. They are juicy, lots of seeds, and are perfect for individual proportions in salads, or for dipping on vegetable platters.
Grape tomatoes are a relatively new hybrid to the variety of tomatoes sold in supermarkets. They look similar to the cherry tomato because they are small, but unlike the cherry and larger beefsteak tomatoes, grape tomatoes are shaped like grapes, and resemble the plum tomatoes in meatiness and lack of seeds. Grape tomatoes are a bit sweeter than the plum tomatoes but not sweet as cherry tomatoes. They are great to use in salads but they can also be used in sauces, stews and soups.
Knowing the common tomato varieties, their tastes and consistency, will help in choosing the ideal type of tomato for your favorite dish.