A Tasty Supermarket Tomato? Nothing Compares to Camparis

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These tomatoes are small, but their flavor is extra-large. (Photos by John Kiely)

Have you recently found yourself picking through tomatoes in a supermarket, trying to find the reddest one? That's proper behavior in a farmers' market, or in the heirloom tomato section. But for most supermarket tomatoes -- even the vine-ripened ones -- red doesn't guarantee it tastes good, only that it looks good.

According to a recent New York Times report on mass-market tomatoes, one scientist believes that decent-tasting gene-tweaked tomatoes will be possible in about seven years. However, there's no reason to wait, because tasty tomatoes are already here. They're called Camparis, and can be found on display in Central Market, or packaged in plastic clamshells in other stores such as Kroger and Belden's.

Camparis are small and bright red, and are classified as cocktail tomatoes. While they don't taste as spectacular as a gorgeous scarlet fruit picked ripe from a garden, they do taste the way tomatoes are naturally meant to taste, and squirrels can't swipe them from the grocery stores. They are great as the base for sauces, and also for slicing.

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This large hothouse tomato may be as delicious as it looks...or maybe not.

There's only one problem with Campari tomatoes -- they are small. Only slightly bigger than a golf ball, it's difficult to get a grip on them to use a tomato peeler, and you'll require a good thumbnail to get the job done.

How to Peel Camparis

If you are using the Camparis fresh, boil some water, turn off the heat and drop the tomatoes in for 40 seconds to make them easier to peel. (You can also make a small X-shaped incision at the bottom of each tomato before dropping them in the water.) If you are using them for cooking, leave them in the water for 90 seconds before removing, and the peels will slide right off. Then you can slice or chop them without having to remove the core.

For a tomato sauce, don't be afraid to use a few mass-market tomatoes to provide bulk and texture, and use the Camparis to provide flavor. For a sandwich, just chop one Campari up and drain some of the juice, and you'll have more savory oomph than thick slices of genetically unsatisfying mass-market tomatoes can provide. It's weeks away, but I am already looking forward to enjoying a big fat turkey sandwich with Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and a chopped Campari tomato on the day after Thanksgiving.


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