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How to eat fresh tomatoes?

My wife, who was born in Raleigh to Yankee and Midwestern parents, claims mayo and salt on tomatoes makes them great.

I, who comes from 10 generations of Marylanders (yes, it is south of the Mason-Dixon line) and North Carolinians, claim a little bit of sugar in best.

Anyone want to help us settle? Is this a regional thing or just personal preference?

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  1. Ain't nothing better than a fresh 'mater sandwich with salt and Duke's mayo.

    6 Replies
        1. re: vafarmwife

          +++++ Salt, pepper, Duke's & bread. I wouldn't be too disappointed if all you had was Hellman's.

          I also love them sliced w/ s&p, crumbled blue cheese and vinaigrette dressing.

        2. salt, pepper, homemade mayo. End of story.

          2 Replies
          1. re: caiogirl

            Oh, I can't think of lots of ways to eat them. Plain, out of hand, is good, especially when they've just been picked and are sun-warmed. A little oil and vinegar is good, too. Sliced with fresh mozzarella and basil is always a treat. And, finally, revealing my Midwest upbringing, sliced or cut up with Miracle Whip. Yes, Miracle Whip! A little S&P can be added to any of these to your liking but I've never heard of sugar on tomatoes. If their really good, I can't imagine sugar being needed. If they're no so good, I can't imagine sugar really helping. Maybe it *is* a regional thing.

            1. re: d.v

              no clue why we added it - these were fresh out of the garden, so yup, great all by themselves. I don't eat them that way now, but did when I lived up there.

          2. I'm a New England transplant and we use sugar too. :) Am guessing it's regional.

            1. I pick it up and eat it like an apple.

              1. If tomatoes are smothered in mayo and salt, they'd be best joining turkey meat in a baguette somewhere. If I'm having a tomato-kirby-and-red-onion-salad, then just a little salt, dried oregano, and some good evoo would suffice.

                1. While I elect to otherwise not join the “how to dress” fray, can we all agree that a fresh tomato must be eaten at room, or vine, temperature? NEVER refrigerated!

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: MGZ

                    No we cannot! As long as it's ripe, I have no problem refrigerating a tomato. I'm eating two of them right now and they are cold, tangy, and delicious!

                    No salt or sugar! What's wrong with you people?

                    1. re: 512window

                      I have no problem refrigerating them either. I have a basket of them on the counter and usually will keep two in the fridg.

                      1. re: Infomaniac

                        Neither do I. When you live in New England in an un-airconditioned house and your kitchen is 85 degrees AND your CSA gives you a ton to tomatoes that you don't have time to make into a sauce or process in some other way, well, guess what you do with the ones you can't use right away? That's right! You refrigerate them. Call me a heretic, but I'd rather be a heretic than totally waste great tomatoes.

                        1. re: Isolda

                          Refrigeration for preservation is permissible. Refrigeration for consumption is not.

                          If any of you persist in such conduct, we shall have no choice but to report you to the mods and seek the revocation of your privleges.

                          1. re: MGZ

                            So, you're going to tell on us?

                            ps - I don't think I *have* any privileges.

                            1. re: 512window

                              Sorry. Perhaps it would help if you could select your own cliche response:

                              a) "It's for your own good."
                              b) "This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you."
                              c) "I'm just doing my job."
                              d) "I don't make the rules."

                            2. re: MGZ

                              Ooh, what are my privileges? I'd better use them up before they're all gone!

                      2. re: MGZ

                        AGREED! Refrigerated is straight up GROSS. They get all mealy. Bleck!

                      3. I like a slice of cheese, mayo, salt and a big ole slice of juicy tomato. And yea... the bread has to be that extremely soft white stuff. :) I also love slicing up fresh tomatoes, English cucumbers and Vidalia onions and dressing it with equal portions of canola oil and apple cider vinegar. Let it sit for just a bit to get all the flavors to meld.

                        My mother was from TN, raised in the Air Force but have lived in TN now since 1975 so I suppose I qualify as a southern girl.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: clik

                          We were just discussing tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers, among other things, over in this thread:

                        2. Sliced with some Penzey's shallot salt and fresh ground pepper!

                          1. Lately I've just been eating them sliced with a little sprinkle of flaky smoked salt. I've never heard of sugar so maybe that is regional-I've lived in the Pacific NW and the southwest.

                            1. I very much agree with MGZ. Please don't put my 'maters in the fridge! I get a little giddy when they are brought in from the vines and are still slighty warm from the sun. I sprinkle with Kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper. Think I'll go have one now! And, of course, I LOVE them with soft mozz and fresh basil. Mmmm.

                              1. Besides the obvious way eating fresh off the vine, here is what I wait for all year for my tomatoes.
                                Fresh Tomato Bruschetta
                                Salsa (always better with fresh tomatoes)
                                Tomato Pizza
                                Cream Cheese and Tomato sandwich

                                I'm going give the mayo and salt sandwich a try though.

                                1. Salade de tomates: slice each tomato crosswise into three main pieces (discarding or re-purposing the top and bottom skin-intensive bits), then each slice into big bite-size chunks. Salt and pepper to taste, baste liberally with good olive oil. Sprinkle on vinegar or lemon juice as desired. Let sit covered at room temperature for at least an hour before serving. Serve with plenty of good bread and butter to sop up the juice.

                                  This may not be as sybaritic as eating one over the sink, but you get to share, which is its own kind of reward.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    Yep. I pat them down with paper towels then drizzle with good olive oil. balsamic or lime juice, salt & pepper.

                                  2. first: bruschetta! with the bread sauteed in evoo until golden brown, fresh minced garlic, fresh basil, kosher salt ..... then BLTs.

                                    sadly, I haven't had ANY really good tomatoes yet this summer. my sister thinks it's been too cold - we're in San Francisco - and I suspect she's right, it's been a chillier than usual summer. Even the Farmers' Markets haven't had anything as sweet as I had last year. hoping things are better in August!

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: mariacarmen

                                      Sorry to hear that. Here in NJ, we have begun that time of year where tomato preparation is almost a chore (almost) - "Give us this day our daily tomato . . . "

                                      Still, I can't bring myself to use sugar.

                                      1. re: MGZ

                                        oh we have plenty of them, they're just not that good this year. so far. i hope.

                                      2. re: mariacarmen

                                        We don't have any tomatoes, but Ma-in-law has a nice big vine outside her back door. Her housekeeper picked three the other day, and we got two of them which we sliced up last night. The poor old dear won't be able to use more than a few of them so we'll just have to keep helping her...

                                      3. do you really need anything other than a little salt, pepper and olive oil?

                                        1. a bit of sugar brings out the sweetness of tomatoes and everything taste better with salt so why dont have both?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: L987

                                            YES! I am a northern VA native (born and raised inside the DC beltway). Dad is from TX, mom is Korean. I grew up eating fresh ripe tomatoes, sliced up and EITHER sprinkled with some sugar (delicious!) OR with some sea salt and fresh pepper (also delicious!). The mayo thing sounds very mid-western (no offense...), and it seems like the sugar thing must be a regional thing too. It is super good though - everyone should try it! :) (and really, the sugar tastes best on a super ripe, GOOD tomato!!)

                                          2. Salt and pepper only.

                                            Or in a BLT with sliced avocado, crispy bacon, whole wheat toast, lettuce, mayo, S&P.

                                            Sugar? Ewwwww!!!!

                                            1. I too, love NJ tomato season. I make a nice batch of blue cheese dressing, because fresh just tastes better. I let it meld for a couple of days, and then slather it on freshly sliced, unrefrigerated tomatos. Add a little salt and pepper, and your dinner veg is ready!

                                              Also, if I have some bacon left over from making baked beans, I love my BLT with blue cheese dressing, instead of mayo. Ooh, maybe that will be tomorrow night's dinner!

                                              1. My parents were from MO & OK and I was raised in California. In the summer we always had a plate of home grown sliced tomatoes sprinkled with sugar with our dinner. I can't remember when I stopped eating them that way (it's been many, many years ago) A home grown tomato needs no embellishment.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: BeefeaterRocks

                                                  I grew up eating sliced tomatoes with dinner almost every night and they were always sprinkled with a little bit of sugar. I'm almost 60 and I still frequently eat them that way. One of those comfort food things, I guess.

                                                2. BLTs on toast with Durkee's sauce.

                                                  1. I grew up in DC with parents from Pittsburgh. Their parents all came from Ireland. We didn't have tomatoes often, but sprinkling sugar was the norm if not eating them in an iceburg salad.

                                                      1. I've always enjoyed them sliced thick with a sprinkling of salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

                                                        For a sandwich, while the BLT does have its draws, my favorite is a toasted egg or salt bagel with some high quality tuna packed in olive oil on top, a nice thick slice of fresh tomatoe, and a thick slice of muenster cheese, with the whole thing thrown under the broiler, open face, so that the cheese can get all bubbly and browned.

                                                        1. The best is the French way: large, vine-ripened tomatoes, never refrigerated, and sliced thinly. Simply sprinkle finely diced Vidalia onions (or any other sweeter onion) and crack fresh coursely-ground pepper on top.

                                                          1. I like to make caprese with fresh mozarella, basil, tomato, olivoil, salt, peppar and balsamic

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: L987

                                                              I like this too, but usually do it with fresh mozarella and homemade basil/garlic pesto.

                                                            2. In Taiwan, you'll find many street stands that serve fresh tomatoes sliced into wedges with a sugar/soy sauce dip.

                                                              For cherry tomatoes, make a slice on the top and shove a piece of salted plum in there.

                                                              Personally, I like it with salted plum powder if available. If not, just plain salt.

                                                              1. We've been in such a tomato rut recently, you almost need to smother them in something to enjoy a tomato. If they are really good beefsteak tomatoes, a slight sprinkly of salt and maybe a quick squeeze of lemon is enough. Although there is nothing wrong with a little mayo. Maybe served with raw onion and some Peter Luger Steak Sauce (or cocktail sauce). Of course a Caprese Salad can never be wrong. Or my favorite sandwich from when I was a child - tomato and provolone on huge slice of semolina with a nice spread of mayo!

                                                                1. For homegrown tomatoes, I slice them and eat them straight--the flavors are too wonderful to mess up with condiments. Sometimes, I might put them on a slice of bread.

                                                                  1. .... with scrambled eggs for breakfast, or anytime.
                                                                    Start the sliced tomatoes in butter, then pour the eggs over the top.
                                                                    Green onions for garnish.

                                                                    1. My fiance (from MA) eats it with salt...and I (also from MA) eat it with sugar. I think its just a personal preference!

                                                                      1. Fresh from the garden, cut into wedges and served with thinly sliced white (not purple or yellow) onion. A pinch of salt - nothing more.

                                                                        1. I don't think there's any wrong way to eat a good, fresh, perfectly ripe tomato.

                                                                          Except one.

                                                                          Adding sugar upsets the perfect sweet/tang of the tomato. See, for example, the gilding of lilies.

                                                                          1. I've lived in NC more than 60 years and I've never heard of anyone putting sugar on a tomato slice.

                                                                            1. I had to refrigerate some leftover tomato slices after a cookout Monday. Tonight I took them out to sit on the counter for an hour. Added salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Very tasty and a good way to serve tomatoes if they've had to be refrigerated.

                                                                              Have any of you old-timers ever had a tomato sandwich made with salt rising (risen) bread? It's one of my favorite childhood memories. Yummy!

                                                                              1. Tomatoes are my absolute favorite food and I love them pretty much any way, but my favorite is fresh out of the garden (or farmer's market) and sliced with just a pinch of kosher salt.

                                                                                1. I love a thick slice of summer tomato on a toasted bagel with cream cheese.

                                                                                  1. Either BLTs or a sandwich with a slice of warm fried eggplant. Other ways too of course, but those are our favorites this time of year.

                                                                                    1. You weren't asking for recipes, but this is one of my favorites for this time of year, when red and green tomatoes are available at the same time.


                                                                                      1. If you have lots of great tomatoes, it's hard to go wrong with a tomato/bread salad.

                                                                                        1. There really is no bad way, for me. But memory of the family backyard has a hold: sliced or wedged, in a bowl, with a little thinly sliced fresh garlic, salt, pepper, and a crumble of dried Sicilian oregano off the stalk, and very good rich olive oil. On whole wheat Italian bread, sometimes gilded (gasp) with anchovy. Or mozzarella. If anchovy, then a little red wine vinegar. If mozzarella, nothing else, maybe a leaf of basil. Heaven.

                                                                                          1. The more perfectly ripe tomato, the less additions. I'll put salt and maybe black pepper on a fine specimen. Something a bit less glorious might get some olive oil and vinegar. Below that the celery salt is applied. Next, the mayo...after that, switch to canned tomatoes.

                                                                                            1. this post keeps re-angering me that our what seems like exceptionally cold San Francisco weather this summer has kept me from having any good tomatoes! not a one has been anywhere near as sweet as the ones i had last summer. but, that's just sour grapes - you all enjoy and keep the ideas coming!

                                                                                              1. I do think it's an Eastern-seaboard preference; I've heard of folks from there using a little white or brown sugar and cream. Myself, I'm a purist; I go out to the garden, pick a gorgeous tomato, rinse it in the garden hose, and get down with the salt shaker. I also love them with a sharp, lemony vinaigrette, or-cubed with cubes of watermelon, kalamata olives, and some feta; a little red onion if you want it. Lemon vinaigrette on this too. Sounds a little offbeat, but you wouldn't believe how good it is; can also be made with cubed ripe peaches and cubed ripe tomatoes with the other ingredients but minus the melon.

                                                                                                1. A slice of really good sourdough bread, toasted and spread with a good salted butter (or even salty margarine), a layer of sliced tomatoes from the garden, and a sprinkling of Kosher salt. The BEST!

                                                                                                  1. Any tomato is a good tomato. I was taught that sugar is an "old country" way of eating them. Salt was used as a preservative so it wasn't used on a tomato as flavoring but rather a way of preserving them. Since vinegar and salt was added to tomato items during canning, the sugar was a way of offsetting the flavors and bringing back tomato taste. Fresh picked or canned the result of adding sugar is the same -- flavor enhancement.

                                                                                                    And most people eat sugar with tomato all the time -- check the back of commercially processed tomato paste and other products. Sugar is added in to equalize the taste -- just like back in the days of home canning.

                                                                                                    Nothing better than a home grown beefstake with sugar or mozzarella or basil or oregano or....well, you get the idea. :-)

                                                                                                    1. Another vote for sliced with a bit of evoo, s/p, and some times a bit of sherry vinegar.
                                                                                                      BLT: made with Duke's please
                                                                                                      BLT, hold the bacon: made with Duke's please
                                                                                                      Tomato bread salad

                                                                                                      I have not taken one in hand and eaten it like an apple for years and years. Shame on me. I'll fix that soon.

                                                                                                      1. Born in KY, schooled in VA, summers in KY and TN, NC resident for 30 years and I've never heard of sugar on a raw tomato! Sounds positively blasphemous to ruin the sweetness of tomatoes by adding sugar to them! However, I've been known to add a bit of sugar to my marinara if it seems a bit acidic.

                                                                                                        However, summertime means fresh tomatoes need only be served with a bit of sea salt and cracked pepper to reach perfection. And, if I'm feeling a bit naughty, a slathering of Dukes or Miracle Whip, depending on my mood.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: SweetPhyl

                                                                                                          Miracle Whip is very sweet compared to mayonnaise. Tastes very sugary. Definitely ruins a tomato for me!

                                                                                                        2. oh gracious... any way I can get them really.

                                                                                                          I grew up eating my sliced tomatoes with a sprinkling of sugar. a particular favorite when we were having home made mac n cheese, because the sweet juice from the 'mater would seep into the slightly salty cheese sauce. YUM.

                                                                                                          now I enjoy them with a little mayo or good thousand island dressing.

                                                                                                          eta: I'm from the Southern Tier area of New York.

                                                                                                            1. "Only two things that money can't buy,
                                                                                                              And that's true love and home-grown tomatoes."
                                                                                                              -Guy Clark

                                                                                                              1. salt, pepper a little vinegar.

                                                                                                                1. Salt and pepper is all I want on mine.

                                                                                                                  1. Nothing better than picking a ripe plum tomato off the vine sprinkling a little salt and finishing it off before I get back to the house!!

                                                                                                                    That being said: Sliced fresh tomato, Hellmans, salt, pepper on fresh pita bread is heavenly!!

                                                                                                                    Maybe a couple of thin slices of buffala mozzerella too!!

                                                                                                                    1. My German grandfather did sugar. I prefer them that way too.

                                                                                                                      1. S&P and maybe a little olive oil if they are not great tomatoes.

                                                                                                                        Great tomatoes don't need anything. Never mayo or sugar.

                                                                                                                        1. this thread makes me sad as I sit here looking at my little starts knowing a edible fresh tomato is still months away -
                                                                                                                          the way to eat a fresh tomato is off the vine still warm from the sun thick slice sea salt fresh cracked pepper into mouth done, I can't wait.

                                                                                                                          1. A tomato salad. "Horiatiki". A true balance of sweet, salty, sour, bitter...
                                                                                                                            Tomatoes, cucumber, onions, green peppers, feta is optional, PLENTY of olive oil, salt. (NEVER vinegar!)
                                                                                                                            Skip the filler of lettuce, no tomato needs a filler of lettuce.

                                                                                                                            A Greek salad as found in Greece. A "Horiatiki". That is "How to eat fresh tomatoes".

                                                                                                                            1. My mom is from the Mid West. When I was a kid growing up in the 60's and 70's in California, she would serve us a thick slice of tomato sprinkled with a teaspoon of sugar for our dessert after dinner. We loved it. Everyone one else thought it was weird. Must not be a California thing.

                                                                                                                              1. On a fried soft crab sandwich with a bit o' lettuce and mayo

                                                                                                                                1. Since this thread opened my eyes. I've been eating tomatoes with salt, pepper and mayo. It's really good! Even though I mostly use Helmans. Also salt can turn a bad tomato delicious.

                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: YAYME

                                                                                                                                    As far as I'm concerned, bad or lackluster tomato (ie., supermarket) is the only tomato that needs or benefits at all from salt.

                                                                                                                                    I just don't understand the apparently common practice of putting salt on a good garden fresh tomato (heirloom or otherwise), or even on the increasingly rare good tasting commercial tomato.

                                                                                                                                    To each his own, I guess...

                                                                                                                                    1. re: The Professor

                                                                                                                                      For me personally, it's not that the tomato NEEDS salt - they are perfectly wonderful plain. But I happen to be a salt junkie, so if I can put salt on something, I probably will ;) haha.

                                                                                                                                  2. I enjoy tomatoes in every way mentioned here, but when I'm eating a tomato just as a tomato I want a slice about half an inch with a slight dash of salt. For variety I add a sprinkling of fresh chives.

                                                                                                                                    Recently I discovered a slice with a smear of homemade pesto (the walnut type).

                                                                                                                                    Roll on day 65!

                                                                                                                                    1. I’m in the salt camp for sure, but I’m willing to give sugar a try.
                                                                                                                                      I’ve posted this before, but it’s worth repeating…this Marcella Hazan recipe for Garlic Scented Tomato Salad is deceptively simple, but so so good.

                                                                                                                                      1. Thickly sliced, sprinkled lightly with sea salt, topped with a thin slice of buffalo mozarella and dotted with a chiffonade of freshly-picked basil. To me, nothing says "summer" better than that.

                                                                                                                                        1. You could saute them gently with some scallions then add in some scrambled egg and a few splashes of soy sauce - served over steamed rice.

                                                                                                                                          I've also seen some recipes that call for slow roasting the tomatoes at a low temp for a few hours, which sounded delicious too.