There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes in an array of shapes, colors and sizes. Generally, sweet onions are in season during the late spring/early summer months.
The most common shapes are round pear-shaped and the tiny cherry-sized. Yellow varieties tend to be less acidic and thus less flavorful than their red counterparts.
In the United States today, tomatoes are second in consumption only to potatoes. While selecting them at the market smell the blossom end.
The most flavorful ones will have a rich aroma. Don't expect much from those in your supermarket, even if they are labeled "vine-ripened."
Select ones that are round, full and feel heavy for their size, with no bruises or blemishes. The skin should be taught and not shriveled.
Store your fresh ripe tomatoes in a cool, dark place, stem-side down, and use within a few days. Refrigeration is the enemy of the tomato as it nullifies flavor and turns the flesh mealy.
The culprit is a compound called Z-3 hexenel, which accounts for the scent and taste. The development process which turns tomato's linolenic acid to the Z-3 that makes our mouth and nose sing is hindered by cold.
If you must refrigerate a tomato, take it out about an hour before using it to let it return to room temperature to revive any lurking Z-3. When wintering your garden, you can salvage some of those tomatoes that haven't yet ripened by wrapping them in newspaper and storing in a cool area between 55 and 70 degrees F for two to four weeks.
Store them no more than two deep and check them often to use the ones that have begun to ripen. Don't expect them to be as good as ones you've ripened on the vine, but they will probably still be better than store-bought.
Canned tomatoes come in many styles, including whole, chopped, crushed, paste, puree, sauce, and juice. Unopened cans should be used within six months.
Once opened, store canned tomatoes in a covered glass container in the refrigerator up to one week. Leftover paste and sauce can be frozen for up to two months.
Freeze one tablespoon of paste in each section of an ice tray, pop out when frozen, and seal in an airtight baggie for quick, pre-measured additions to soups and sauces. They need not be thawed prior to adding to your recipes in most cases.
If you have freezer space, you should consider freezing your excess tomatoes rather than home canning. It's just so much easier, and the flavor and texture are better, although they will no longer be good for fresh usage.
To freeze, rinse and dry thoroughly. Place in ziptop plastic bags and suck out the air with a straw.
No peeling or blanching is necessary, once thawed the skins will easily slip off. They will be perfect for cooked dishes and will retain more of that fresh flavor, rather than the cooked, canned flavor.
Choose onions with tightly closed necks that are absolutely dry, avoiding those with a thick, woody center in the neck. The skin should be bright and shiny.
If you notice dark, powdery patches under the skin, pass it up as this is an indication of a common mold which will eventually spoil the flesh. Sprouting is an indication of age and poor storage.
Yet, if the sweet onions have sprouted in your pantry, you can use the green sprouts as a substitute for scallions even if the flesh may be useless. Sweet onions have a shorter shelf life than common varieties due to a higher water and sugar content.
Thus, it's important to store them properly. Ideally, sweet onions should be stored in a cool, dark, dry location and spread out for optimum air circulation.
Most growers suggest placing onions in a clean pair of pantyhose, with knots tied in between each onion, then hung in a cool, dry place. Just snip off below each knot when you need one.
Stored properly, sweet onions should last in your pantry about ten days to two weeks. Cut, raw onion leftovers should be tightly wrapped and refrigerated to be used within a few days.
Although sweet onions are best eaten raw, they can be chopped and frozen for future cooking uses, with no blanching necessary. Frozen onions begin to lose their flavor after about twelve months in the freezer.