You may think that you know everything that is worth knowing about tomatoes. But did you knew this?
Use some tomato leaves in your cooking
Some chefs add some tomato leaves to the tomato sauce. They consider that the leaves add freshness. WHAT the f…, you may think. The tomato leaves are poisonous. Yes, they are. Don’t believe all those articles that claim it’s a myth. Tomatoes come from the nightshade family, and the leaves contain both solanine and tomatine, both of them toxic substances. But potatoes, eggplants, and goji berry also contain solanine, and they are not considered poisonous.
It’s all about the amount.
If you for some reason was eating 2 pounds of tomato leaves there is a significant risk that you would be sick. If you eat more, there is a risk that you will die. But most people wouldn’t do that. Not even the most devoted suicide aspirant. Tomato leaves alone don’t taste good.
Believe me, I have tried. But adding a leaf or two to the tomato sauce is something different.
You can compare it with alcohol. Most of the times we drink just enough. We enjoy the benefits of alcohol when it comes to taste, smell, and relaxation without getting a hangover. But sometimes we drink a little too much and… Well, I suppose most of us have been there at least once. No need for further explanation.
But alcohol is also poisonous, and if you drink far too much, you can die from it. Everybody knows that. But still, we drink it.
And we happily eat battered green unripe tomatoes that contain much higher levels of both solanine and tomatine than ripe tomatoes. So one or two leaves into the tomato sauce won’t harm you. If you are not hypersensitive to those substances that will say. Some people are, and they should be careful.
If you still feel concerned, use basil instead. It has the same effect but without any toxic substances. If it’s organic, that will say.
Never store tomatoes in the fridge
The tomatoes you buy during wintertime is very close to tasteless.
At least here in Sweden, and I suppose it’s the same all over the northern hemisphere. The tomatoes are harvested unripe and sometimes exposed to cold during transport so that they are not overripe when they arrive at the store. Nothing kills the flavors more effectively than cold. Therefore you should always store tomatoes at room temperature. Never place them in the fridge.
Use salt and sugar to improve flavor
But keeping them away from the fridge doesn’t help very much if the tomatoes you have bought already taste almost nothing. The only thing you can do then is to try to reinforce the little taste that exists. And the best way is to add sugar or salt or both. Let’s start with the salt.
Salting the tomatoes is particularly effective if you are making a salad, bruschetta or the like. Cut the tomatoes in pieces and sprinkle some salt. Put the tomato pieces in a strainer for 15-20 minutes. Salt will cause tomatoes to release some liquid, resulting in a more concentrated flavor. This method also works well with many other vegetables like paprika for example.
When you add sugar, you just compensate for the lack of sweetness that tomatoes sometimes suffer from. The sugar does not counteract the acidity like many belief. It can make it more pleasant, but it will not reduce it. Think of a traditional Chinese sweet and sour sauce.
Always store tomatoes stem end down
When you store tomatoes, you shall always place the stem end down if you can’t buy them still attached to the vine. That prevents moisture from exiting, and air to entering, through the scar where the tomato has been attached to the vine. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical the first time I read about this, but now I know it works. The shelf life will increase significantly by just placing them stem side down.
Freeze tomatoes that start to become overripe
But sooner or later your tomato will become overripe. And you don’t need more tomato sauce. You already have nine batches in the freezer, and that feels more than enough. Or maybe you just have a bad day and cooking feels about as appealing as cleaning the toilet after yesterday’s party (which you have to do anyway).
The solution is to freeze them. Yes, that’s right. Just place them in freezer bags and then into the freezer. You don’t even have to peel them. Tomatoes are easier to peel when they are frozen. Just run them under hot water, and the skin should fall off easily. But don’t expect them to look like they did before you placed them in the freezer. If the tomato was overripe before, it will be more than overripe when you thaw it. It will be soggy. Like most vegetables that are frozen raw. Perfect for all kind of sauces or salsas.
Don’t waste the skin by the way. You can make excellent tomato powder of it.
Never cook tomatoes in an aluminum pan
All tomatoes are more or less acidic. As mentioned before you can mask the acidity by adding sugar, but it will not make it disappear. That’s why you shall never use an aluminum pan to cook your tomato sauce. At least not the ones that are not anodized. Otherwise, you may end up with a sauce that has a hint of a metallic taste. Aluminum is a very soft metal and may dissolve with contact to acidic food like tomatoes. That’s why making a hollandaise sauce in an aluminum pan may end with a small disaster.
Personally, I don’t like aluminum pans. Especially not the thin walled types. You know the ones that if you hit them on your head, they would probably take greater harm than your head. But I know that they are popular because of their low weight, so it’s worth mentioning this potential problem.
Use a serrated knife when cutting tomatoes
I do not like this advice, but because you encounter it quite often, I feel compelled to take it up. The best knife to cut tomatoes with is a serrated knife. And it’s true if you’re chef knife is dull. I suspect that the serrated knife is popular because quite a few people don’t sharpen their knives very often. If they ever do it.
They have all sort of fancy, expensive and unnecessary equipment, but they don’t take care of the most important tool in the kitchen.
Remember that a sharp chef knife is always superior to a serrated knife except when it comes to slicing bread.
1. Use tomato leaves in your cooking
If you grow tomatoes, you can use the leaves to add freshness to your tomato sauce.
2. Never store tomatoes in the fridge
Tomatoes stored in the refrigerator will be less flavorful. Just leave them on the kitchen count. Just remember rule no. 4
3. Add salt and sugar to improve flavor
Adding salt will release liquid resulting in a more concentrated taste.
Adding sugar will compensate for a lack of sweetness.
4. Store tomatoes stem side down
To prolong the shelf life you should store your tomatoes stem side down. That prevents moisture from exiting and air to entering through the scar where the tomato has been attached to the vine.
5. Freeze tomatoes
Freeze tomatoes that start to get overripe. You don’t have to peel them. To peel, just run a frozen tomato under hot water. The skin should slip off easily.
6. Never cook tomatoes in an aluminum pan
I thought the last aluminum pan disappeared somewhere in the late seventies. But I was wrong. I don’t think it causes any health risks to cook tomatoes in an aluminum pan. But acidic foods such as tomatoes can easily pick up a metallic taste from aluminum if it’s not anodized.
7. Use a serrated knife to slice tomatoes
If you haven’t sharpened your chef knife that will say.
It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.