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Ugly Ripe and Cluster Tomatoes

The ugly ripe tomato is a real old fashion beefsteak tomato. A beefsteak most people think is a large to very large tomato, but beefsteaks really are tomatoes without a center core, all tomato inside, no white hard core in the middle. The ugly ripes are one of those, beefsteak, misshaped - cat faced. Cat faced means misshaped with cracks coming from the stem end making them ugly to look at, but delicious to eat.

A tomato is a fruit, but in the United States we treat it like a vegetable. They didn't become popular in the U.S. until after the Civil War. Now the tomato is the third most popular vegetable in the United States - after potatoes and lettuce. A real good tomato is sweet, tender and juicy with a real rich red color. Just what the uglies are. We have lost that with our tomatoes, we want them hard and pink, that's not what a tomato is supposed to be. The key to getting a great tasting tomato is maturity. The longer on the plant the riper the tomato is, the better the taste. Most tomatoes are picked green and shipped in refrigerated trucks because they are highly perishable. Tomatoes will continue to ripen once picked but they will not get any tastier, (sweet or juicy).

In the 1950's, the businessmen and scientists got together and developed different hybrids of the old good tasting tomato, the beefsteak, to produce a tomato that could be shipped from one coast to the other without bruising. Unfortunately, at the same time, they also bred out all the flavor. Tomatoes today look great, are hard like a baseball, but they aren't tomatoes, they are hard red something's. The ugly is what a tomato used to be.

A great tomato is worth looking for and the three most important rules to remember are:


Refrigerating kills the flavor, the nutrients, the texture. Tomatoes ripen from inside out with the center of the tomato always riper than the skin. The ideal temperature for tomatoes is somewhere between 55-70. At this temperature the tomato will ripen inside and out. The tomato will have a full flavor and stay moist and plump. IT WILL EVEN SLICE BETTER.

Cold produces poor flavor and texture while heat makes them mushy and flavorless and both promote decay. Never ripen tomatoes in direct sunlight. Just keep on counter, stem up (eliminates shouldering) which is bruising.

In the tomato industry, tomatoes are considered "vine ripe" when they show a little color break. A color break is when the tomato shows a yellow or reddish patch of color on the skin. This is a good indication that the tomato will ripen at home - but the taste will never be like a ugly ripe which is left on the vine till ripeness.

Now of course the ugly ripe tomatoes will be soft, will look a little funny but one thing is certain - they won't taste funny! A ripe tomato will be soft - they are not a baseball - they are a tomato - tomatoes were and should be soft.

Do yourself and me a favor. Pick up an ugly-ripe tomato - don't refrigerate - just cut up - make a sandwich - Italian bread, red onions, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dried oregano, salt and pepper - and of course some ugly ripe tomato slices. TAKE A BITE - YOU'LL KNOW IT'S SUMMER.

Simple Pleasures

We have all kinds of upscale restaurants, and there is a lot of interest in complicated cuisines, but sometimes it's the really simple things that give you the most pleasure. When I was a kid, I had to help my father sell produce out of the back of his truck. At lunchtime he'd stop at some little store and buy a loaf of Italian bread. Then we'd find a place where we could pull off to the side of the road. He'd put down a piece of cardboard for a cutting board, slice the bread, cut up a tomato and an onion, and make tomato sandwiches.

Sometimes when I come home from the store and I'm too bushed to prepare or even eat a full meal, I'll make myself a tomato sandwich. Food brings back memories. You can sit down with the most ordinary things on your mind and eat something good and it will bring back memories - things you haven't thought about in years. Even memories that might not start out being so good seem to improve as time goes by. At the time I hated peddling fruits and vegetables out of that truck with Pop, but now I wish I had the time to pull off to the side of the road they way we did then. We don't have the luxury of slowing down - everything is geared to working and being productive. Produce, produce, produce. Wouldn't I love to be able to take my son and go sit by the side of the road and have a tomato sandwich? With the perfect ripe red tomato and good bread, there's nothing' better.


Baked Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes

Fresh Plum Tomato Sauce

Jersey Tomato Salad Italiano

Pop's Tomato Sandwich

Other recipes from Produce Pete.


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