Tomatoes: The Most Popular Varieties, the Best Recipes

Tomatoes: The Most Popular Varieties, the Best Recipes

© Lena Staal

Tomatoes: The Most Popular Varieties, the Best Recipes

Tomatoes: The Most Popular Varieties, the Best Recipes

© Lena Staal

The simple fact is that tomatoes taste best when they are fresh from the vine, glowing with shades of red and yellow, their sweet flesh bursting with the juiciness of summer, their aroma fruity, leafy and savoury at once.

Solanum lycopersicum, to call the tomato by its Latin name, may belong to the nightshade family, just like potatoes, aubergines and peppers, but its element is undoubtedly the radiant, warm light of the sun. This is evident in the fact that it does not like the cool, dark interior of a fridge and loses a lot of its flavour when refrigerated.

We owe the tomato to the pre-Columbian civilisations of South and Central America where they were cultivated long before they made their way to Europe. 

The Italians were the first to use the red fruit and discover its versatility in the kitchen. While the earliest recipes date back to 1544, tomatoes did not really take off until the beginning of the 17th century.

The gastronomic achievements of the tomato are far too numerous to list. We love it as a salad as well as a sauce, as ketchup, as a sun-dried dried fruit brimming with umami flavours, as a juice for cocktails as well as a topping for pizza and focaccia, as a sauce for stuffed peppers as well as a well-chilled soup and even as ice cream. And the great thing is: it tastes wonderful in every incarnation: fresh, tinned, dried, concentrated...

 


Popular Tomato Varieties

Pera d’Abruzzo

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This extraordinarily large variety of tomato grows on the steep slopes of Abruzzo and is characterised by its sweet flesh. It has comparatively few seeds and is considered to be the ideal variety for a mild, fruity, low-acid passata. But also fresh, cut into thin, large slices and seasoned with the fruity olive oil of the region, this fabulous variety is a revelation.

Sunstream

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This classic cocktail tomato is a high-tech product of science and a so-called F1 hybrid. This is not genetic manipulation in the classical sense, but the first generation from the crossing of two parent varieties.

Such fruits combine the positive characteristics of both parents to an outstanding degree, but do not come true - which is gardeners' speak for saying that they cannot be regrown from the seed of the fruit. Sunstream is an oval cocktail tomato with a deliciously sweet aroma that is ideal for growing in greenhouses where it thrives year round.

Ochsenherz­tomate

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The mighty tomato with the characteristic heart shape can easily weigh 500 grams and, apart from its sheer size, is characterised by a comparatively pale red colour, a particularly silky texture and, as the name suggests, a special fleshiness. Among connoisseurs, it is considered the ideal tomato for the Italian dish par excellence, the Insalata Caprese with mozzarella, fresh basil, olive oil, salt and the "Cuore di bue" tomato. In Italy, the Ligurian coast with its steep alpine slopes down to the Mediterranean Sea is particularly favoured for its cultivation, where it is traditionally grown on terraces - and, hardly by chance, harmonises particularly well with the legendary aromatic basil from there.

San Marzano

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The elongated fruit is a very old variety that corresponds to the type of bottle tomato (so called because of its shape). Its full-length name is "Pomodoro San Marzano dell'Agro Sarnese Nocerino DOP" after the village where it is grown with protected designation of origin. At the foot of Mount Vesuvius, the growing conditions are said to be ideal for this variety. It is characterised by a full aroma, a very fleshy (not very juicy) structure, quite strong acidity and an intense tomato flavour. Particularly suitable for sugo, because its consistency in the raw state is comparatively unattractive. Today, many bottled tomatoes, including those in cocktail format, are called San Marzano for simplicity and recognisability.


Recipes:

You can read more about heritage tomato varieties here.

And just to prove our point, here are seven delicious tomato recipes.

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