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Tomatoes - Buying, Storing, & Preparing

Fast Facts

Fruit or veggie? By method of cultivation and use it is a vegetable; however, botanically it is a fruit. Specifically, it is a berry because it is pulpy and contains one or more seeds that are not stones.
  • Arkansas tomatoes are available from May to October
  • Tomatoes are high in potassium and vitamin C
  • Tomatoes should be harvested when they are firm and changing color

The tomato is native to the Americas and was cultivated as early as 700 A.D. by the Aztecs and Incas. The conquistadors took seed to Europe in the 16th century and the tomato soon became popular in Mediterranean countries.

As the tomato gained popularity through Europe, it was given various names. The French called it “The Apple of Love” and the Germans, “The Apple of Paradise.” The British liked its brilliant red color but believed the tomato was poisonous. This same fear existed in the United States until early in the 19th century.

Buying & Storing Tips

  • Choose tomatoes that are firm and plump. Avoid those that are very soft, bruised, cracked or otherwise damaged.
  • Ripe tomatoes are completely red or reddish orange (depending on the variety) and
    give slightly to gentle palm pressure.
  • Mature-green tomatoes have quality similar to vine-ripened, if given proper conditions to ripen.
  • Select unpackaged tomatoes or those packaged in perforated wraps. This allows for good air circulation, which is needed to ripen tomatoes.
  • One pound has three medium or four small tomatoes that yield about 1½ cups of pulp.

Preparation Tips

  • Fresh tomatoes can be served uncooked in salads or stewed, baked, broiled or microwaved.
  • When freezing tomatoes, the skins should be removed because they become tough.
  • When peeling ripe tomatoes, drop in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, then dip into cold water. The skins will slide off.
  • When canning, only use firm and ripe tomatoes. Overripe, soft tomatoes or tomatoes picked from frost or disease-killed plants have less acid and may be unsafe to can.


Quick Caprese Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes

  • 6 medium­ ripe tomatoes
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 6 large basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cut tomatoes and mozzarella into bite­-sized pieces.
  2. Stack basil leaves and roll into a cylinder. Cut into thin ribbons with kitchen shears or sharp knife. Sprinkle ribbons over the salad.
  3. Whisk together olive oil and vinegar. Drizzle dressing over the salad and sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper.
  4. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings

Nutritional Info Per Serving:

  • Calories: 112
  • Protein: 6 g
  • Fat: 8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 6 g
  • Saturated fat: 3 g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Cholesterol: 12

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Prep Time: 2 hours (includes inactive drain time)

  • 3 pounds firm, ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  1. Place tomatoes in covered saucepan with 1/8 teaspoon salt.
  2. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer to colander and let drain for one hour.
  4. Return drained tomatoes to the saucepan and add the onion, garlic, basil, olive oil, sugar and a dash of salt.
  5. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
  7. Remove from heat and process in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  8. Serve over pasta, rice or baked potato.

Makes 6 servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving:

  • Calories: 84
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Fat: 5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 10 g
  • Saturated fat: 1 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 60 mg

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Nutrition Information

Vegetables are an important source of fiber and many nutrients. Although the actual amount of some of the nutrients present may seem small, their contribution is significant if two to three servings of vegetables are eaten daily. Below are the nutrients which supply five percent or greater of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) per serving. 

Nutritional info for 1 medium tomato (2 inch diameter). Calories: 24, Carbs: 5.3 g, Potassium: 254 mg, Sodium: 10mg, Fiber with skin: 10g, Fat:0.3 g, Protien: 1.1 g, Vitamin A: 14% RDI*, Vitamin C: 37% RDI. *Reference Daily Intake

Interested in growing your own tomatoes? Check out these resources!

Growing Tomatoes in Arkansas

Growing Tomatoes FAQ