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How to eat fresh tomatoes?

jcbarr Jul 31, 2010 08:31 AM

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?

  1. v
    vafarmwife Jul 31, 2010 09:00 AM

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

    4 Replies
    1. re: vafarmwife
      Sue in Mt P Jul 31, 2010 11:25 AM

      I'm with you.

      1. re: vafarmwife
        smartie Aug 1, 2010 05:32 AM


        1. re: smartie
          pikawicca Aug 10, 2010 07:05 PM

          Me too.

        2. re: vafarmwife
          lynnlato Jul 9, 2012 03:35 PM

          +++++ 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.

        3. c
          caiogirl Jul 31, 2010 09:11 AM

          salt, pepper, homemade mayo. End of story.

          2 Replies
          1. re: caiogirl
            d.v Jul 31, 2010 09:48 AM

            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
              Scirocco Jul 31, 2010 10:20 AM

              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. Scirocco Jul 31, 2010 09:32 AM

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

            1. ipsedixit Jul 31, 2010 11:30 AM

              I pick it up and eat it like an apple.

              1. Cheese Boy Jul 31, 2010 09:51 PM

                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. MGZ Aug 1, 2010 04:14 AM

                  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
                    512window Aug 2, 2010 12:56 PM

                    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
                      Infomaniac Aug 2, 2010 01:13 PM

                      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
                        Isolda Aug 2, 2010 01:17 PM

                        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
                          MGZ Aug 3, 2010 08:44 AM

                          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
                            512window Aug 4, 2010 12:23 PM

                            So, you're going to tell on us?

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

                            1. re: 512window
                              MGZ Aug 4, 2010 01:27 PM

                              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
                              Isolda Aug 10, 2010 07:00 PM

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

                      2. re: MGZ
                        lynnlato Jul 9, 2012 03:37 PM

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

                      3. clik Aug 1, 2010 05:02 AM

                        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
                          bbqboy Aug 2, 2010 01:10 PM

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

                        2. MandalayVA Aug 1, 2010 07:24 AM

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

                          1. e
                            ErnieD Aug 1, 2010 09:16 AM

                            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. CapreseStacy Aug 1, 2010 11:21 AM

                              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. Infomaniac Aug 1, 2010 08:17 PM

                                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. Will Owen Aug 1, 2010 10:29 PM

                                  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
                                    Dophi Aug 1, 2010 11:27 PM

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

                                  2. mariacarmen Aug 2, 2010 12:37 AM

                                    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
                                      MGZ Aug 2, 2010 06:57 AM

                                      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
                                        mariacarmen Aug 3, 2010 08:26 AM

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

                                      2. re: mariacarmen
                                        Will Owen Aug 2, 2010 10:08 AM

                                        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. s
                                        swoll50 Aug 2, 2010 12:56 AM

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

                                        1. l
                                          L987 Aug 2, 2010 03:48 AM

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

                                          1. p
                                            Parrotgal Aug 2, 2010 09:04 AM

                                            Salt and pepper only.

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

                                            Sugar? Ewwwww!!!!

                                            1. h
                                              heidip732 Aug 2, 2010 01:40 PM

                                              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. BeefeaterRocks Aug 2, 2010 04:14 PM

                                                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
                                                  kateyjo Aug 3, 2010 04:23 PM

                                                  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. eclecticsynergy Aug 2, 2010 06:37 PM

                                                  BLTs on toast with Durkee's sauce.

                                                  1. m
                                                    mojoeater Aug 2, 2010 06:59 PM

                                                    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. b
                                                      Beckyleach Aug 2, 2010 07:45 PM

                                                      As often as possible.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Beckyleach
                                                        debbiel Jul 10, 2012 05:08 AM


                                                      2. t
                                                        TuteTibiImperes Aug 2, 2010 08:16 PM

                                                        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. i
                                                          itslaurie Aug 2, 2010 11:26 PM

                                                          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. l
                                                            L987 Aug 3, 2010 04:07 AM

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

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: L987
                                                              pasuga Aug 4, 2010 11:17 PM

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

                                                            2. h
                                                              huaqiao Aug 3, 2010 09:14 AM

                                                              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. j
                                                                jhopp217 Aug 3, 2010 10:04 AM

                                                                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. raytamsgv Aug 3, 2010 04:18 PM

                                                                  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. bbqboy Aug 3, 2010 04:23 PM

                                                                    .... 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. CreativeFoodie42 Aug 4, 2010 05:54 AM

                                                                      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. BobB Aug 4, 2010 08:25 AM

                                                                        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. f
                                                                          FrankD Aug 4, 2010 08:37 AM

                                                                          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. j
                                                                            jimingso Aug 4, 2010 04:14 PM

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

                                                                            1. j
                                                                              jimingso Aug 4, 2010 06:57 PM

                                                                              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. karrill Aug 4, 2010 07:01 PM

                                                                                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. d
                                                                                  dpmc Aug 4, 2010 07:07 PM

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

                                                                                  1. coll Aug 5, 2010 12:22 AM

                                                                                    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. p
                                                                                      pasuga Aug 5, 2010 12:27 AM

                                                                                      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. pikawicca Aug 10, 2010 07:08 PM

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

                                                                                        1. b
                                                                                          bob96 Aug 10, 2010 08:12 PM

                                                                                          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. MsDiPesto Aug 10, 2010 08:34 PM

                                                                                            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. mariacarmen Aug 10, 2010 11:26 PM

                                                                                              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. mamachef Aug 11, 2010 03:17 PM

                                                                                                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. s
                                                                                                  schmoopy Aug 12, 2010 12:06 AM

                                                                                                  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. j
                                                                                                    JustSayNoToMSG Jul 9, 2012 03:27 PM

                                                                                                    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. d
                                                                                                      debbiel Jul 10, 2012 05:11 AM

                                                                                                      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. SweetPhyl Jul 10, 2012 11:34 AM

                                                                                                        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
                                                                                                          nlgardener Jul 10, 2012 11:56 AM

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

                                                                                                        2. j
                                                                                                          jujuthomas Jul 10, 2012 12:23 PM

                                                                                                          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. g
                                                                                                            GH1618 Jul 10, 2012 12:38 PM

                                                                                                            Insalata caprese.

                                                                                                            1. t
                                                                                                              thinks too much Jul 10, 2012 12:44 PM

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

                                                                                                              1. YAYME Jul 10, 2012 12:52 PM

                                                                                                                salt, pepper a little vinegar.

                                                                                                                1. k
                                                                                                                  kengk Jul 10, 2012 12:55 PM

                                                                                                                  Salt and pepper is all I want on mine.

                                                                                                                  1. Motosport Jul 10, 2012 02:05 PM

                                                                                                                    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!!

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