How to Buy Heirloom Tomatoes

Alex Guarnaschelli demystifies the daunting process.

Host Alex Guarnaschelli, as seen on Supermarket Stakeout, Season 1.

Photo by: Michael Moriatis

Michael Moriatis

Although tomatoes are thought of as a summer crop, they are the best through the end of August into October. Both Alex Guarnaschelli and Bobby Flay recently posted videos that extoll this late-summer fruit. “I think they are the best end of August, through September and into October,” says Alex. And Bobby agrees, “Late August, and actually all through September, is actually the best month for corn and tomatoes but what happens is after Labor Day we start thinking about pumpkin lattes.”

So, do yourself a favor and put down the pumpkin latte, and go grab a basket of tomatoes. Here are Alex’s tips for navigating the daunting universe of heirloom tomatoes.

How to Buy Heirloom Tomatoes

Touch Them

First, don’t be afraid to touch them, but be gentle! “There’s water in them so you’ve got to be careful,” warns Alex.

Go for the Heavy Ones

“The heavier it is in your hand, the juicier it is inside because water is heavy.” Plus, don’t be afraid to buy the big ones but choose the tomatoes with the least blemishes and avoid soft spots.


Different colors have different flavors and transitioning colors mean different levels of ripeness and varying flavors, explains Alex. Whether you go for a Green Zebra, a Mr. Stripey or a Japanese Black Trifle, stop worrying that you will ever know all the varieties, “I’ve discovered that I’m never going to know all the names.” Try different ones to see what you like. A very pale yellow one called the Great White tastes like melons and cucumber, says Alex.

Every Tomato Is Beautiful

Most important, don’t judge a tomato by how it looks. “Some of the sexiest tomatoes come in these organic forms ... when they say buy some ugly vegetables ... I think that big time applies for these fruits,” says Alex.

Alex hosts Supermarket Stakeout Tuesdays at 10|9c and catch Bobby on Beat Bobby Flay, Thursdays at 10|9c, Worst Cooks in America, Sundays at 9|8c, and The Flay List, Thursdays at 10:30|9:30c.

Don’t Miss

Next Up

Taste Test: Heirloom Tomatoes

Juicy tomatoes are at their peak, and that means farmers' markets are exploding with heirloom varieties. Heirloom tomatoes are special, because cultivators have saved the seeds and passed them down through the generations. They come in a range of sizes, colors and of course, flavors. We tested several varieties for taste and texture. Plus, a quick recipe for heirloom tomato sauce.

Katie's Healthy Bites: Heirloom Tomatoes

Few can resist taking a bite out of a fresh-picked local tomato, and now that tomato season is in full bloom, heirloom varieties are at their ripest.

Burger Buying Guide

Learn the golden rules for buying burgers from Food Network Magazine.

Beef Buying Guide

Whether it's for the backyard or the kitchen, this guide will help you find the perfect cut of meat.

Buying a Grill

Guidelines for deciding which grill type is right for you

Cheese Buying Tips

With hundreds of cheeses now available at the grocery store and in cheese shops, buying cheese can be downright intimidating. But rather than approaching the cheese counter with dread, think of buying cheese as a fun adventure.

Turkey Buying Guide

How to choose the perfect holiday turkey

Market Watch: Heirloom Eggplants

Most passersby ooh and ahh over these fantastically gorgeous nightshade veggies and then pass on buying them because they have no idea what to do with them! I’m here to help.

The Bacon Buying Guide

Learn about the different varieties of bacon so you know which slices to look for at the store.

Buy Bone-In Cuts

Food Network Magazine loves boneless meat for fast weeknight meals, but sometimes bone-in cuts are worth the extra cooking time.