Tomato Guru Shares Tips for Picking the Best of This Summer's Crop (Part 1)

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(ARA) Summer tomato season is a celebrated, yet fleeting, time of year. For several months each year, local produce stands pop up on roadsides and in parking lots—an opportunity for many areas of the country to show off their best locally grown, in-season fruits and veggies. For most of us, locally grown tomato season falls in August.

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Joe Procacci (right) is a 60-year veteran of the tomato industry. As owner of Santa Sweets, Inc., one of the country’s largest growers of conventional and organic tomatoes, he’s a genuine guru on flavorful tomatoes of all varieties. He also writes a blog called Tomato Talk.

Procacci started peddling tomatoes during the Great Depression to help his family in trying times. He remembers what winter tomatoes imported from Cuba tasted like and why they were superior to U.S. winter tomatoes. He was the first to grow and distribute those tasty little grape tomatoes coast to coast in North America.

Here are a few of Procacci’s tips on selecting, storing and preparing the perfect tomato this season and into the winter:

  • If you’re growing tomatoes in your yard, you should generally pick them when fully mature on the vine. But a tomato picked at first sign of color (“breaking” from green to red) and ripened at room temperature should be just as tasty as one left to fully mature on the vine.
  • If you’re selecting a tomato from your local market, choose one based on when you plan to eat it. Having it for dinner that night? Pick the most ripe, red tomato available, with a texture somewhere between soft and firm. If you plan to keep them around until later in the week, pick one that still has some ripening to do. You’ll get the same great flavor by allowing it to ripen off the vine (on a countertop) for a couple of days.

Tune in tomorrow to read Part 2 of this story.

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