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7 Popular Types of Tomatoes (and How to Use Them)

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There are thousands of tomato varieties — many of which are hybrids — but they can be broadly divided into seven types (1).

All tomatoes are fruits of the plant Solanum lycopersicum, although they’re typically referred to and used as vegetables in cooking.

Tomatoes have a fresh, mild taste and are usually red — though they come in other colors too, from yellow to orange to purple.

They’re rich in nutrients like vitamin C and antioxidants including beta carotene and lycopene, which have many health benefits.

This article reviews 7 popular types of tomatoes, their nutritional contents, and how to use them.

Cherry tomatoes are round, bite-sized, and so juicy that they may pop when you bite into them.

One cherry tomato (17 grams) contains only 3 calories and trace amounts of several vitamins and minerals (2).

They’re the perfect size for salads or to eat alone as a snack. They’re also well suited for skewers and kebabs.

Grape tomatoes are about half the size of cherry tomatoes. They don’t contain as much water and have an oblong shape. One grape tomato (8 grams) has only 1 calorie (2).

Like cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes are excellent in salads or eaten alone as a snack. However, they’re likely too small to use on skewers.

If you don’t care for the juiciness of cherry tomatoes, the grape variety may be a better choice for you.

Roma tomatoes are larger than cherry and grape tomatoes but not large enough to be used for slicing. Romas are also known as plum tomatoes.

One Roma tomato (62 grams) contains 11 calories and 1 gram of fiber (2).

They’re naturally sweet and juicy, making them a solid choice for canning or making sauces. They’re likewise popular in salads.

Beefsteak tomatoes are large, sturdy, and firm enough to hold their shape when being thinly sliced.

One large (182-gram) beefsteak tomato with a 3-inch (8-cm) diameter contains 33 calories, 2 grams of fiber, and 28% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin C — an immune-boosting antioxidant vitamin (2, 3).

They’re perfect to slice up for sandwiches and hamburgers. They’re also mild in taste and juicy, making them a good choice for canning or sauce-making.

Heirloom tomatoes vary significantly in size and color — ranging from pale yellow to bright green to deep purplish-red. They’re non-hybrids, and their seeds are saved and passed down without cross-pollinating with other types.

Some people view heirloom tomatoes as a more natural alternative to hybrid ones. Heirloom varieties also tend to have a deeper, sweeter taste than store-bought alternatives.

Heirloom tomatoes have nutritional contents similar to those of other tomatoes. A medium (123-gram) heirloom tomato contains 22 calories and 552 mcg of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that’s a precursor to vitamin A — which is important for good vision (2, 4).

They’re prized for their taste, so they’re perfect for canning, making sauces, and eating by themselves — lightly salted if that’s your preference.

Tomatoes on the vine are sold still attached to the vine they grew on. This prolongs their shelf life.

Some research indicates that vine-ripened tomatoes contain higher levels of antioxidants and other nutrients than those picked before peak ripeness (5, 6).

One medium (123-gram) tomato on the vine has a nutrient content similar to those of other varieties, containing 22 calories and 3,160 mcg of lycopene — a potent antioxidant with heart-protective effects (2, 7).

They’re typically large and firm enough to be sliced for sandwiches, but they can also be used in canning and sauces.

Green tomatoes can be divided into two types: heirlooms that are green when fully ripe and unripened ones that have not yet turned red.

Perhaps surprisingly, unripened green tomatoes are used in cooking in some regions. For example, fried green tomatoes, which are sliced, battered with cornmeal, and fried, are popular in the Southeastern United States.

Green tomatoes are firm, easy to slice, and — like other varieties — low in calories, with one medium (123-gram) green tomato containing 28 calories (8).

They’re also excellent for canning and making sauces. They’re tangy and slightly sour, so they impart a unique flavor and color to dishes. One common use of green tomatoes is to make relish, a condiment for sandwiches and meats.

However, unripe green tomatoes contain higher levels of alkaloids than ripe ones, which makes them more difficult to digest. They may cause gastrointestinal issues in some people, so they should not be eaten raw (9, 10).

With so many different types, it can be difficult to choose the best one for your cooking needs.

For reference, here are the best types of tomatoes for various purposes:

  • Sauces: Roma, heirloom, tomatoes on the vine
  • Canning: Roma, heirloom, tomatoes on the vine, green tomatoes
  • Salads: grape, cherry
  • Skewers: cherry
  • Sandwiches: beefsteak, tomatoes on the vine
  • Fried: green tomatoes
  • Snacks: grape, cherry, heirloom

Although some varieties are better suited for specific purposes, they’re all versatile. For instance, although beefsteak tomatoes are not ideal for salads, they can still easily be used in one with tasty results.

Summary

There are many different types of tomatoes, and each is better suited for certain dishes. However, they’re all are versatile and can easily be substituted for one another.

Although there are thousands of varieties of tomato, they can be divided into seven broad categories.

Each type has its own best uses, but they’re all low in calories and rich in nutrients and antioxidants like vitamin C, beta carotene, and lycopene.

Tomatoes are an excellent food to include in your diet, and using this guide to can help you choose the right type for your cooking needs.

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