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Summer heats up flavor for isles’ tasty tomatoes

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Hawaii’s year-round sunshine is somewhat deceiving: We don’t think of seasons here, but there’s definitely a difference in heat during the winter and summer. This means a difference in our food crops, especially tomatoes.

Summer tomatoes taste better than winter tomatoes. I’m no scientist, but I believe the heat of the summer sun develops the flavor and sugar in tomatoes, something that just doesn’t happen as well in the winter months. So now is the time to really enjoy those vine-ripened "love apples," just like folks on the mainland do in the summertime.

Hawaii-grown beefsteaks, heirlooms, zebras, plum, cherry and grape tomatoes are abundantly available at farmers markets and supermarkets. Since most tomatoes arrive at markets firm, it’s a good idea to let them sit on your counter for a few days before eating them, allowing them to ripen and develop more flavor.

A tomato that’s ready to eat should be richly colored, slightly soft to the touch and noticeably fragrant. When you cut it open, the juices will run, and the flesh should be red (or green or yellow) all the way through.

Never refrigerate a tomato — you will kill its flavor and the flesh will get mushy.

Enjoy a good tomato for what it is. Sprinkle a little salt, maybe drizzle a little olive oil. Summer tomatoes are the best!

Hawaii food writer Joan Namkoong offers a weekly tidbit on fresh seasonal products, many of them locally grown. Look for "Fresh Tips" every Wednesday in the Star-Advertiser.


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