Here’s everything you need to know about tomatoes, like are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable? What are the different types of tomatoes you can choose from (like Roma tomatoes and cherry tomatoes)? How to add more of them to your diet. Plus 50 Tomato Recipes to give you inspiration.

white tray with different types of tomatoes

What can you make with tomatoes? There’s so many different types of tomatoes, so the possibilities are endless really! I’ve listed 50 tomato recipes in this article to help you incorporate more tomatoes into your diet.

white tray with a variety of types of tomatoes (heirloom tomatoes and cherry tomatoes)

What are Tomatoes

Tomatoes are fruits from the plant Solanum lycopersicuma. They’re a member of the nightshade family, along with potatoes, eggplant and bell peppers. They’re typically red in color when they’re ripe, but they also come in a variety of  shapes, sizes and colors (yellow, orange and green). The water content found in tomatoes is about 95% and the remaining 5% consists of fiber and carbs.  All of them (like Roma tomatoes to cherry tomatoes) are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, lycopene, beta-carotene, potassium and folate, making them a good food to add to your diet. Be sure to check out the 50 tomato recipes at the end of this article.

Are they a Fruit or a Vegetable

Defining a fruit or a vegetable depends on if its being classified botanically or in culinary terms Botanically speaking, tomatoes are a fruit, more specifically a berry, but they are prepared and served as a vegetable. All fruits have a seed or seeds and are formed from flowers. Vegetables on the other hand are the roots, stems and leaves of plants like carrots, celery, beets and lettuce. But when it comes to cooking, the classification system changes a bit for fruits and vegetables. Fruits are considered sweet, so they tend to be used more for desserts, smoothies and jams. Vegetables tend to have a more bitter with a tougher texture. They can be eaten raw, but oftentimes they’re better off cooked. Vegetables are most often used for savory dishes like soups, stews and casseroles.

Types of Tomatoes

There are many types of tomatoes to choose from (like Roma (also called Italian and plum tomatoes), cherry(also called sweet tomatoes) and heirloom). Some are better to toss in salads,  while others are better to use for sauces. They’re all rich with vitamin C, beta-carotene and lycopene and they’re all low in calories. Here are 7 common types of tomatoes and their suggested uses:

Beefsteak 

These are generally on the larger side up to 6 inches in diameter. These are meatier with  a high flesh-to-seed ratio. They are typically firm and hold their shape while slicing them. These are perfect for adding to sandwiches and burgers.

Cherry Tomatoes (Sweet Tomatoes)

Cherry tomatoes (also called sweet tomatoes) are round, bite-sized, sweet and juicy. Cherry tomatoes are most often tossed in salads, pan roasted to serve with chicken or fish, or enjoyed as a snack and served with crudites.

Grape 

These are about half the size of a cherry tomato and they have an oblong shape. They have little juice, only contain about 1 calorie per tomato. They can be tossed in salads, enjoy as a snack and serve with crudites.

Roma Tomatoes (Italian and Plum)

Roma are also called Italian and Plum tomatoes. They contain little water and seeds. Roma tomatoes are great to add to to salads and sauces.

Heirloom Tomatoes

These range is size, shape and color. They are non-hybrids and their seeds are saved and  without cross pollinating with other types of tomatoes. These are often used for canning, making sauces or tossing wedges in with a salad.

Garden

You’ll find these at the store still attached to the vine they grew on. Vine ripened tomatoes may have higher amounts of antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals than those picked before peak ripeness. These are great sliced for sandwiches and used to make homemade sauces with. (1

Green

There are two types of green, heirloom that are green when fully ripe and those that are not yet fully ripe and will turn red.  The unripened version are usually used to make fried green tomatoes or they’re sliced for sandwiches.

different types of tomatoes (Roma, cherry vine, green)

Choosing the Best 

There are so many different types of tomatoes, but when choosing the best to buy, always (no matter the type), look for plump, heavy tomatoes with smooth skins free of bruises, blemishes or cracks. Their leaves should look fresh and green. Choose whatever size you need for your intended use. The size doesn’t have any bearing on flavor, texture or quality.

How Long Do They Last

There’s no precise answer to this, because it depends on how ripe they are when you buy them, how you store them and whether you refrigerate them or not. Typically they will last on the counter for up to 7 days, but keep them away from direct sunlight. Fully ripe tomatoes can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, but if you keep them there any longer,  you will have a watered down, mealy and mostly tasteless tomato on your hands.  Don’t put them unripe in the refrigerator because this will stop the ripening process.

Want to know more? Go to How to Store Tomatoes for more tips and tricks for storing them.

Tomato Products

Besides fresh off the vine tomatoes, tomatoes are sold in a variety of other forms. Canned and processed tomato products are more concentrated so they can possibly have up to five times the lycopene. Processed tomatoes are also cooked, so they may be easier for the body to absorb the lycopene that they provide. Some canned tomatoes are quite high in sodium, so be sure to always check the label before buying. Some of the tomato recipes I’ve provided below, utilize canned tomatoes.f The following are some of the more common products used in recipes:

  • Whole –These are often made from Roma (or plum), and they’re made with whole ripe tomatoes that have been cooked peeled and cored. Great for long simmering recipes like soups, sauces and stews.
  • Diced  –These are great for stews and chunky sauces.
  • Crushed – These are often used for making soups and sauces.
  • Stewed – These are typically stewed with onion, green pepper and celery and seasonings like oregano and thyme. Often added to soups and stews.
  • Paste – This is a very concentration form of juice. Typically the concentration is 24% from solids (as opposed to the 8%-24% for tomato puree). Often used to thicken sauces and add flavor to soups and stews.
  • Puree – This is also a concentration form  juice and pulp and it has the consistency of thick tomato sauce. Often used in sauces and salsas.
  • Sauce – Used to make pasta sauces, salsas and to add flavor to rice and soups. 
  • Sun-dried  – These are made from Roma (plum) that have been dehydrated which preserves them and provides a rich flavor. They’re sold packed in oil or dry. If you purchase the dry, you’ll likely need to soak them in water first before adding them to a dish.
  • Juice – This is made from blending and straining the liquid from tomatoes.

Tomato Health Benefits

They’re a rich source of beta-carotene and lycopene. Lycopene is the substance that gives tomatoes their vibrant red color. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant and its believed to help protect against heart disease. It is most abundant found near the skin of the tomato. They are also a good source of vitamins A, C and E, as well as folic acid, potassium and calcium.

How to Add More of Them to Your Diet (50 Tomato Recipes)

If you’re looking for ways to incorporate more antioxidant-rich tomatoes into your diet, we’ve got you covered! Here’s 50 tomato recipes for inspiration. Chick the recipe name to take you to the full post. 

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