Grocery Guides

Tomatoes – All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Fresh Produce



Aug 4, 2021

What are tomatoes?

The tomato is a popular produce item. Botanically, it’s not a vegetable at all, but a fruit—technically, it’s a berry. But because it has such a low sugar content, we treat it like a vegetable in cooking. Due to this culinary ambiguity, the tomato had its day in court in 1887 to decide whether it’s a fruit or vegetable. The tomato was declared a vegetable because it’s served with dinner, not dessert. While the purpose of the case was to settle tariff issues and not reclassify the tomato, this controversy lives on.

Tomatoes come in various colors besides red, including purple, pink, yellow, green, and orange. While there are over 10,000 varieties of tomatoes, here are a few of the most popular:

  • Grape: This tiny treat is crunchy, juicy, and good in salads. Grill them on a skewer or snack on them raw.
  • Beefsteak: The large and meaty beefsteak is great for salsa and sauce, sandwiches, and burgers. Don’t try to make a BLT without it.
  • Cherry: Small and crisp, cherries are the sweetest tomato and are great on salads, skewers, or snacking.
  • Roma: When you want a firm, flavorful tomato with fewer seeds, order a Roma.
  • Heirloom: If you’re feeling nostalgic, go for the sweet and meaty tomato with seeds that date back generations.

Where do tomatoes originate?

The tomato was first discovered in South and Central America and domesticated in Mexico. The Aztecs first used tomatoes in cooking around the time the Spanish conquered the Aztec Empire. The Spaniards brought the tomato back to Europe, where its popularity spread over the 16th century. However, Europeans were initially suspicious of the bright, red fruit and believed it to be poisonous.

In 1897, Joseph Campbell (of Campbell soup fame) created a canned, condensed tomato soup, which made Campbell rich and turned tomato soup into a kitchen staple. And by the end of the 19th century, tomatoes had become the most popular fruit or vegetable in the world for home canning.

What’s the nutritional value of tomatoes?

Lycopene is abundant in tomatoes (and pink grapefruit, pink guava, and papaya). It’s what gives those fruits their red/pink color. Tomatoes are 95% water, making them low in calories and carbohydrates and rich in fiber. A small, raw tomato also contains:

  • Calories: 18
  • Protein: 0.9g
  • Carbs: 3.9g
  • Sugar: 2.6g
  • Fiber: 1.2g
  • Fat: 0.2g

Tomatoes are also a good source of

  • Vitamin C
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin K1
  • Folate (vitamin B9)

How do tomatoes grow?

Tomatoes are cheap to plant and yield an abundant harvest. However, they’re not the easiest plant to grow. They require the right amount of direct sunlight and frequent watering. Their primary growing period is the summer months, although extreme temperatures can be too much for the delicate plants.

What should I look for when buying tomatoes?

First, never buy tomatoes in a refrigerated case. Second, look for plump tomatoes that feel heavy for their size and feature smooth skin that’s soft but firm. If the tomato is still on the vine, the leaves should be fresh and green. The tomato should be fragrant, even if it’s still a little green. If it has no scent, it might have been picked too early and could never ripen.

If you are looking to have your groceries delivered, you can easily shop for tomatoes via Instacart. After adding a product to your cart, use the “Instructions” option to notify your Instacart shopper about any preferences or specific directions on how to choose the best products. Shop for tomatoes.

How should tomatoes be stored?

How you store your tomatoes depends on how ripe they are. In general, cold stops the ripening process, and room temperature (or hotter) speeds it up. However, the fridge isn’t the best place for tomatoes, as it can degrade their texture and flavor.
If your tomatoes are not yet ripe, store them at room temperature, out of the way of direct sunlight, in a single layer, stem side down. Ripe tomatoes should be eaten immediately. If you do choose to store them in the refrigerator, let them come to room temperature before eating to maximize their flavor.

How can you tell if tomatoes have gone bad?

The first sign a tomato has seen better days is mold, which can appear in two ways: dark green or black spots or a fuzzy, white coating. If you see wrinkles, bruises, blemishes, or cracks, that’s a sign your tomato won’t last long. If you find yourself with overripe tomatoes, you can use them to make a sauce, as long as they’re not showing any signs of mold.

What can I substitute for tomatoes?

If you need (and don’t have) fresh tomatoes, you can use canned tomatoes. Or you could try grilled red peppers—they’ll provide the same kind of sweetness as tomatoes. Olives also have the same umami flavor as a tomato but a lot saltier. Get same-day delivery on olives, red pepper, and a large selection of fresh produce.

The versatile tomato

Tomatoes enjoy worldwide popularity and deservingly so. They’re flavorful and full of vitamins and health-boosting antioxidants. Tomatoes are available all year long on Instacart with same-day delivery of fresh produce.

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