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.

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