It’s only when I can dig my teeth into that very first slice of thick, juicy beefsteak tomato that I know summer is really in full swing. Beefsteak tomatoes are the greatest gift of this season; I love to savor their sweet, intense flavor with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. When you have truly good tomatoes, you don’t need much else.
What’s in a name
I can’t think of a better word than “beefsteak” to describe these meaty, succulent tomatoes when they’re sliced. But beefsteak isn’t a botanical term. Any of several varieties of large tomatoes with thick, plump flesh can be called beefsteaks. And not all beefsteak varieties are huge. Although many produce fruit weighing well over 1 lb. (I’ve grown some that weighed more than 4 lb. apiece), there are some varieties that weigh less. A beefsteak has smaller seed cavities and therefore a greater ratio of flesh to juice and seeds than other kinds of tomatoes. Then there’s shape. Beefsteak varieties are typically—though not always—slightly flattened (oblate, in botanical terms) and sometimes lumpy, with a slightly irregular shape. We’re so used to perfectly shaped supermarket tomatoes that many of us consider an imperfect shape undesirable. That couldn’t be less true. The tomatoes that look the ugliest, including beefsteaks, are often the best tasting.
Leave tomatoes at room temperature until you’re ready to use them. Refrigeration causes loss of flavor and a mealy texture.