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November 29, 2015, 9:27 am

Though often classified as a vegetable, tomato is actually a fruit and no matter how you pronounce it, tomato remains a delectable fruit, raw or cooked.

Available in various colors and sizes, the skin, flesh and seeds are edible, and despite being labeled toxic the leaves too can be consumed safely. The number of tomato varieties run into the thousands, from the huge beefsteak to tiny cherry tomatoes, but most carry a sweet, gently tangy flavor and taste great both in raw and cooked form.

Choosing tomatoes: When choosing the best tomatoes, make sure they are firm, yet soft, and bright in color. The sooner you eat a ripe tomato after it has been picked, the better it will taste. The leafy tops are a good sign of freshness, but make sure they are perky rather than wilted. Avoid any tomatoes that show signs of mould.

If you happen to buy a tomato that is under ripe and want it to ripen faster, place the tomato in a paper bag with a banana. As bananas ripen they produce ethylene gas which will speed up the process of ripening the tomato.

The type of tomato you buy should depend on what you intend to do with it. Here is a run-down of some of the most common types.

Beefsteak: These are the biggest tomatoes, and have a meaty texture with a sweet, mellow flavor. They are good for salads, grilling or stuffing.

Salad: This is the traditional British tomato. It is a good all rounder but needs to be ripened to bring in the best flavor. 

Cherry: These are small and sweet and are best suited for salads, pasta sauces or roasted.

Plum: Plum tomatoes are available as a baby or full-grown and have an oval shape, with rich flavor and comparatively few seeds. They are good for making sauces and stews.

Green: There are two types of green tomatoes. One is unripe, and is quite tart but good for chutneys, or fried items. The other is a variety that stays green when ripe and has a tangy flavorthat is best suited for salads.

Yellow: These tomatoes ripen to a golden yellow color, and are good in salads, salsas and chutneys.

Preparation: Wash the tomatoes and leave the whole or chop as required. If you want to remove the skins before making them into a sauce, cut out the green stalk and core at the top of the tomato, cut a small, shallow cross at its base, then put them in bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to stand for 30 seconds, then drain. When cooled down, pull away the loosened skin.
Storage: For maximum flavor and juiciness, tomatoes are best stored at room temperature. Refridgerating them will hinder the ripening process and impede flavor and texture. If stored in a cool place, remove 30 minutes before use. Tomatoes, depending on age, can remain fresh for up to one week.
Tomato puree: The simplest item prepared from a tomato is its puree. To make the puree at home, dip tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes, then drain, and slip off the skins. Blend the skinned tomatoes in a food processor and sieve to remove the seeds. Heat until the tomato pulp has reduced to a thick paste. Use in pasta sauces, casseroles and soups.
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