What Kind of Tomatoes Do I Use?

Well, let’s see. In the world of tomatoes there are Beefsteaks, Big Boys, Bonny Bests, Burpees and Black Krims. Jubilees, Early Girls, Ponderosas and Patios. Then you’ve got your Abraham Lincoln’s, Box Car Willies, German Pinks, Giant Syrians, Purple Russians, Hungarian Hearts, Mexico Midgets, Cherokee Purples and Hillbilly Potato Leafs. Moonglows, Shepherd’s Sacks, Purple Hazes, Lucky Crosses, Green Zebras, Oxhearts and Bloody Butchers. Tappy’s Finest, Pruden’s Purples, Tommy Toes, Long Tom’s, Aunt Ruby’s, Moneymakers, Mortgage Lifters… Yellow Stuffers, Cream Sausages (?), Nebraska Weddings, Roman Candles, Silvery Fir Trees…lordy I’m tired.

Of all those (and countless others) the tomatoes you most often see called for in sweet preparations are Brandywines. These are fairly large, fairly firm-fleshed, and yes, fairly sweet. They’re an Amish variety, developed some time in the 1880’s, and are commonly thought to be a good match with pastry. But then unless you grow your own, they can be difficult to find. And me, I’d rather work with a few excellent Beefsteaks than some mediocre Brandywines that I’d trapsed all over creation to find.

My suggestion: go with your gut. Pick your tomatoes like you would apples for a cobbler. Nothing too soft, but plump, red and sweet. Or ask a seller at your local farmer’s market what he or she recommends. Those growers, they seldom let you down.

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