You know it’s summer when you bite into your first juicy ripe tomato. If you're growing your own, you know once they start ripening, they don’t stop. Luckily, there are so many ways to use the bounty (besides sharing them with others), that you won’t have to worry about them going to waste.

Tomatoes are often grouped together by size/shape or use. Though all are interchangeable, each have their best use.

Small Fruited: Cherry, grape, pear and currant tomatoes, named for their shape, are sweet one-bite snacks. A colorful mixture of mini tomatoes, displayed in a glass bowl on your counter. is inviting as a bowl of candy.

Use these diminutive beauties in salads, stuffed as appetizers, cut up in a fresh salsa or pasta sauce. They make a wonderful antipasto dish roasted in olive oil and herbs (perhaps a few dashes of good balsamic vinegar?) Sautée with some fresh, chopped herbs until bursting and use as a sauce.

Saucy: Usually referred to as paste or roma-type, theses are the tomatoes to use for making sauce and paste. Because they’re meatier (less seeds and gel) and higher in pectin than other tomatoes, they thicken up faster than other types. Their texture is somewhat mealy when fresh, which some people may be put off by in salads and sandwiches.

Paste tomatoes are also determinate varieties – which means they tend to ripen most of their fruit at one time. This is a great convenience for cooking canning, since you are able to pick enough at once to make a batch of sauce or can them in other forms.

Slicers and Salad: These are the ones that probably come to mind first when you hear the word ‘tomato’. The only difference between slicers and salad tomatoes is the size, with salad toms being smaller. 

Like the minis, they come in all colors, from yellow to near-black. It may be difficult to tell when a non-red tomato is ripe if you’ve not grown the variety before. It should give a bit when lightly squeezed. Pay close attention to the color when you find a ripe one so you learn to recognize them easily.

Here’s a recipe that will make use of your fresh green beans as well. Leftovers may be eaten cold or allowed to return to room temperature before serving. Though it calls for cherry tomatoes, you can substitute any mini-tomato, or chopped up larger ones.

Green Beans Provençale

From Cooking Light, June 1998

2 lbs fresh green beans, cut into 1 1/2” pieces

24 small cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 c chopped red onion

3/4 c chopped fresh parsley

1/4 c water

1/4 c white wine vinegar

2 Tbl grated Parmesan cheese

2 Tbl olive oil

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

Steam beans, covered, 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain beans; plunge into cold water and drain. Combine beans, tomatoes and onions in a medium bowl.

Combine the chopped parsley and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring until well blended. Pour over the vegetables, tossing gently to coat. Serve at room temperature. Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 cup).