As a child, the official arrival of summer meant, first and foremost, the arrival of cherry tomatoes. Set with the task of picking the summer’s bounty from my aunt’s gardens, my cousins and I would run up the hill of the yard to the neat rows of tomato vines. Using our short arms, we would scour the plants for the ripest tomatoes of the bunch. There never seemed to be an occasion when I could pass up sampling the homegrown produce. Though I always tried to sneak my samples, inevitably, my crime was always known when I returned home with bursts of tomato juice staining my t-shirts.
While I no longer have access to my aunt’s garden, the farmers’ markets are teeming with some of the season’s most luscious assortment of cherry tomatoes. Although they are delicious eaten as is, here are some suggestions for buying and preparing one of summer’s best ingredients.
Bethany Imondi misses those days of sneaking produce from her family’s garden plots. Today she avoids those awkward tomato stains by snacking on the fruit over her kitchen sink.
**Tips and Tricks**
Cherry and grape. Cherry tomatoes differ from their cousin, the grape tomato in both shape and taste. Whereas grape tomatoes are oblong-shaped and have a flavor similar to the plum variety, cherry tomatoes are round and taste sweeter.
Buying right. When buying cherry tomatoes, look for fruits that are all uniform in color. Any sign of green on a red, yellow or orange tomato hints that it has not fully ripened. Also, make sure there is no liquid in the bottom of the container, a sign that some of the tomatoes may be decaying.
Never refrigerate. Cherry tomatoes are best stored at room temperature, not in the fridge. Fresh tomatoes can last up to a week without going bad. Do not wash them until ready to use.
Eat them as is. On the days when you want to keep effort to a minimum, cherry tomatoes are the perfect accompaniments for salads and easy hors d’oeuvres. For a light meal, try them in this Tomato and Dinner Roll Panzanella Salad. If entertaining, they are the star ingredients in Caprese Skewers and Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta.
Turn up the heat. While turning on the oven may be the last thing you want to do in the summer, roasting cherry tomatoes helps to heighten their sweet flavor. Drizzle the fruits with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and cook them in 350°F oven for 30-40 minutes. You can substitute cherry tomatoes in this recipe for Roasted Tomato Soup with Crispy Pancetta.
Sauce it up. Whether raw or cooked, cherry tomatoes and their distinct sweet flavor lend themselves well to pasta sauces. Substitute cherry tomatoes in this recipe for Pomodoro Fresca Pasta Salad, or cook them in this Baked Spinach Gnocchi with Three Tomatoes.