Getting To Know Tomatoes: 7 Varieties And How To Use Them

In India, no bhaji feels quite complete without some tomato. That touch of acidity does so much towards bringing the flavours together and balancing out the spice and the savoury, no dinner is complete without them. But the tomatoes we find in our kitchens are only the tip of a massive Titanic-threatening iceberg of tomatoes and their potential. 

As you probably know already, tomatoes aren’t even really vegetables at all. Though we use them primarily in savoury dishes, they are biologically considered fruits. The Solanum Lycopersicum is the plant whose berries we call tomatoes and they hail from western South America, Mexico, and Central America. According to food historian, KT Achaya, tomatoes were quite a late addition to the Indian palate coming to our shores by way of England in 1850.

High in Vitamin C and beta carotene, tomatoes can be a truly beneficial addition to any diet but when it comes to choosing the right one for every dish, it can be a bit tricky. There are thousands of different tomato varieties, many of them hybrids and each has its own unique properties. Here we’ll take a look at 7 of the most commonly available ones and how they can be used. 

1. Desi Tamatar

We had to begin with the star of our show, the desi tamatar. This simply refers to the tomato species which grows naturally on our lands without any engineering. Although there are over 100 varieties of tomato in India alone, there’s a pretty good chance there’s one of these sitting in your kitchen right now.

2. Cherry Tomatoes 

These ones you probably already know too, small round, and so juicy they pop at the slightest encouragement. Their calorie count matches their size and they’re most often found in salads and as part of decorative elements of other dishes.

3. Roma Tomatoes

Also known as plum tomatoes, these are naturally sweet and juicy which makes them a very popular choice when making sauces. They’re fairly large but their soft, tender insides don’t hold up well to chopping making them difficult to use raw.

4. Beefsteak Tomatoes

One of the largest of tomatoes, Beefsteaks live up to their name being big and beefy. They’re usually very first so hold up well even when being chopped into thinner slices, as such they're used often in sandwiches and burgers where their milder, less acidic taste fits perfectly.

5. Heirloom Tomatoes

These beauty queens of the tomato bunch can vary wildly in size and colour from pale yellow to green to purple. Despite their unique looks, they’re completely natural and non-hybrids, with the seeds being passed down without cross-pollination. Their deep, sweet taste and attractive looks make them best suited to eat alone with a dash of salt or in salads where they can be the star of the show.

6. Vine Tomatoes

When you picture cartoon tomatoes, these are probably the ones that spring to mind. Attached at the stem to a beautiful green vine tomatoes are usually mid-sized and sweet. Staying on the vine improves their shelf life so if you need tomatoes that will last a while, this is the choice.

7. Green Tomatoes

Unlike green heirloom tomatoes which are fully matured, green tomatoes are simply tomatoes that haven’t reached their full ripeness. Their tangy, sour flavour makes them popular in salsas where a zing is needed but a lot of people find unripe tomatoes a little hard to digest, so it’s a gamble.