Tomatoes are robust vegetables, well, fruits actually, and can produce a big yield from a single plant. Although you can use any tomato variety for cooking, plum or Roma tomatoes are considered the meatiest, with a good ratio of flesh to seeds and liquid. When you're harvesting tomatoes, choose the ripest and best specimens you can find. Avoid tomatoes with brown spots, split skins or obvious signs of insect activity. Select tomatoes that feel heavy for their size and have smooth, tight, shiny skins. Remember, you'll be using a number of tomatoes in a single recipe, and one bad 'mater can spoil the batch if you're not careful. If you're fortunate enough to have a number of tomato varieties in your garden, mix it up a little. From Better Boys to Early Girls, tomatoes have subtle differences in flavor and texture, and a little experimentation may yield the best chunky salsa or barbecue sauce you've ever tasted.
Peeling a ripe tomato may seem like a chore, but a quick dip in boiling water will loosen the skin from a tomato's flesh in less than a minute, making it easy to slip it off like a shiny overcoat. Once you have a large pot of boiling water on the stove, you can typically peel and seed more than a dozen tomatoes in less time than it takes to harvest them from the plants. Have a large slotted spoon or spider standing by to immerse and retrieve the tomatoes from the hot water a few at a time. A dunking for 40 to 60 seconds per batch should be plenty. If the tomato skins aren't splitting as part of the dunking process, make them easier to remove by cutting a small X at the top or base each tomato before dropping them in water. To keep the tomato meat as fresh as possible, give hot tomatoes a quick bath in ice water to stop the cooking process. You can then remove the seeds using your thumb or a teaspoon.