When I was seven or eight years old I went through a raw tomato eating phase. My grandpa Orr would make me sandwiches with miracle whip, home-made butter pickles and delicious ripe tomatoes from his garden. That dish would not fly with my health consciuos mother, but she did allow me to eat sliced raw tomatoes with Italian salad dressing. I actually drove my mother into distraction one day by asking her to slice me tomato after tomato after tomato. She had other stuff to do, so she finally snapped that if I wanted ANOTHER tomato I would have to slice it myself.
So, I placed an very ripe tomato on a plate, and kneeling on a chair, I raised a very dull butter knife directly above my victim. I plunged the knife in! The skin of the very ripe tomato detached and was sucked into the center of the tomato along with the dull butter knife, revealing the terrifying true form of the tomato within. I was found the naked tomato not just unappetizing but actually frightening. I had a very active imagination and a habit of endowing everything with a personality. I was slow at math because I had assigned a character to each of the first 10 digits and would make up stories about what would happen when 9 and 7 met (they danced the waltz by the way…I still picture it every time I see the number 63). This aspect of my personality has led me into my three pronged career path as a proffesional puppeteer, storyteller and expert art educator for the 4 to 9 year old set….and it also meant that, at seven or eight years old, the tomato had suddenly become entangled in my mind with something more like a bunny. I was tomato bunny murderer.
My mother was not amused and she made me eat the tomato anyway. It was traumatizing and I did not eat raw tomatoes again until high school. But look at me now! Dissecting raw tomatoes like a heartless pro! I also sometimes cook and eat bunny, by the way.
Some recipes suggest that you peel and seed tomatoes. They never say why and rarely explain how that is supposed to be done. For a long time I assumed that this was a uniformly ridiculous thing to do…like peeling carrots…isn’t all the flavour in the seeds and skin? However, I have realized that there are some very good reasons to peel and seed tomatoes when adding them to certain dishes and I have learned how to do it. Here are my thoughts and instructions.
WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU PEEL AND SEED A TOMATO?
Tomatoes are in the nightshade family, along with eggplants, potatoes and deadly nightshade (which are tiny eggplants that gnomes and fairies love to eat before going into battle with trolls). If you are not a gnome or a fairy however, deady nightshade will kill you (hense the name). There is an itty bitty amount of that same deadly toxin in the skins of tomatoes. Some people are more sensitive to it than others, particularly when it is cooked. Many people don’t realize that they have this sensitivity, they just think that they have a little tummy ache from eating too much pasta with red sauce. So if you are adding tomatoes to a cooked dish its not a bad idea to remove the peels. Also, I personally find the texture of cooked tomato skins wildly unappealing.
As for seeding tomatoes, it seems that some people find tomato seeds too bitter for certain dishes. Personally, I think that is ridiculous. If you don’t like the taste of tomatoes don’t eat them! However, there are some dishes (Tomato pie is a good example) in which the extra moisture of the tomato seeds is undesirable. If you do not seed the tomatoes that are going into a tomato pie, your crust will be soggy and the filling will never set. Drippy tomato pie is gross. I cannot stand wasting perfectly good food, so when I seed tomatoes I reserve them for another use, like throwing into a stew or a batch of soup stock or black beans.
Drop the whole raw tomato(es) into the boiling water.
By the time the water has come back to a boil the skin on the tomato(es) should have started to split. As soon as this happens, fish the tomatoes out with a slotted spoon and place on a plate or wide shallow bowl.
WHEN SHOULD I PEEL AND SEED A TOMATO?
You should peel and seed tomatoes for dishes that require that sort of thing DURING TOMATO SEASON. In the winter, you should save yourself some time, money and disappointment and buy some stewed tomatoes. These are usually already peeled and they can be strained into non soggy tomato parts for baking in to pies and tomato seed and juice for making soup and or a Bloody Mary. I am writing this post in December and I will not bother posting it until July, because I hope that no one else is stupid enough to be doing this right now. The above tomatoes look pretty but they have no flavour. It seems that every winter I decide to go ahead and buy myself some tomatoes (see last years winter tomato post slow oven-roasted tomatoes) and every year my experience is the same…sad, sad, sad, sad, sad.