They don’t call it an heirloom for nothing. Unlike other fruits and vegetables, the tomato holds a special place in our hearts. For foodies, it’s an ingredient boasting fabulous flavor and incredible versatility. But for everyone else, the tomato is synonymous with summer produce and local ingredients.
Whether you spent the season out in the country, at the lake, down the shore, or tending to your grandmother’s backyard garden, everyone remembers the taste of a perfectly ripe tomato. It's a quintessential summer ingredient. Put a slathering of mayo, a sprinkle of pepper and a generous slice between two pieces of bread, and you’ve got pulpy pleasure just begging to be devoured.
So, why are tomatoes such a good pick for summer? It’s not all about those cherished childhood memories. In fact, there are multiple reasons why this vine-ripened renegade has emerged as the go-to produce of the season (perhaps only rivaled by corn). And by the way, if you’re still interested in the famous fruit vs. vegetable debate, be sure to check out our recent article.
Here are a few fast facts relating to tomatoes and their summertime popularity:
Now that you understand the utter amazement of the summer tomato, it’s time to put your culinary skills to the test. Grab your favorite cookware, and let’s try out a few meals inspired by the season’s most popular produce.
Ever notice that mom used to do all of her canning in the summertime? Since tomatoes are especially ripe, it’s the best time to whip up some Sunday gravy and keep a few batches stored for fall and winter. Of course, you can always enjoy fresh sauce for your weeknight pasta, pizza, flatbreads and other summer fare.
This fusilli with summer tomato sauce recipe from Food and Wine requires very little complex preparation. In fact, all you need to do is chop up a few ripe tomatoes, combine them in a blender or food processor with various seasonings, and you’re ready to drench your noodle or cover your crust.
Also referred to as a tomato tart, the summer tomato pie is an elusive dish unknown to most folks. Just like a quiche or similar savory pie, the recipe calls for a rich, crunchy, buttery pastry puff crust, ripe red tomatoes, cheese, chives, and a host of other seasonal herbs to create the filling.
Country Living’s version of the summer tomato pie requires a large boiling pot or stockpot. Your tomatoes take a dive in the boiling bath before being iced, de-seeded, peeled, and sliced into large rounds. Once baked with gooey cheese in your biscuit encasement, the result is a taste of summer in your mouth.
Photo: Gemma Evans, Unsplash
From Italian caprese and bruschetta to Mexican salsa and beyond, tomatoes are a perfect base for your cold summer salads. Home chefs can step away from the stove, beat the heat, and serve up a cool, comforting dish that’s both hearty and healthy.
While many blogs offer some truly imaginative takes on this iconic summer side dish, we’re fond of Trial and Eater’s vegetarian- and vegan-safe version featuring four easy ingredients. The simple summer tomato salad tosses up chopped heirloom tomatoes in whatever colors are available, a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and fresh parsley. You can’t get more refreshingly simple than that!
We’ll put it simply: If you haven’t tried panzanella, then you haven’t lived! This Tuscan-inspired favorite is an unusual take on the typical chopped salad. Usually, chefs will take old, stale bread, and soak it in olive oil or similar dressing to create a crunchy, flavorful crouton. Then, the bread is paired with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, anchovies and other fresh ingredients.
Ina Garten has a fabulous summertime panzanella recipe, which takes just under an hour to prepare. You’ll need your sauté pan and other utensils to brown the bread; then, you’ll chop up some veggies, slice the tomatoes, and whisk up a yummy vinaigrette before tossing it all together.
This outside-the-box choice takes inspiration from many of today’s healthy baked chip trends. Whether it’s kale, sweet potatoes or parsnips, experimental foodies love creating their own snackable treats that are technically healthy—but bursting with flavor.
While it’s possible to microwave your tomatoes into crispy, crunchy form, Bunsen Burner Bakery has an easy oven-dried tomato chips recipe. This version takes some time, but your patience pays off! Sliced tomatoes are sprinkled with some salt, pepper, and herbs before going into a 180°F oven for 2.5 hours or until thoroughly dehydrated. Serve ‘em up solo, or pair with a fresh sour cream dip for a dunking delight!
Love tomatoes as much as we do? Stay tuned for more pulpy pointers coming down the Made In pipeline! Hate tomatoes and read this article because you love food? Check out our picks for summer food trends so you have an alternative to tomatoes.