Best tomato for salsa, singular… or the best tomatoes for salsa, plural, since here we’ll be discussing more than a single tomato variety…
So what is the best tomato to grow for salsa – if indeed you are growing your own tomatoes for salsa…
Best Tomato for Salsa – Best Tomatoes for Mexican Salsa
In most regions of Mexico, the tomato variety of choice for making salsa, and it has been for centuries, is ‘Jitomate’. It possesses an oval shape and is smaller than the majority of ‘typical’ shop-bought standardized round tomatoes.
‘Jitomate’ has a pretty intense flavor, making it an ideal choice for salsa. It’s also lovely in sauces.
In the US, you may be in luck: many grocery stores sell ‘Jitomate’ tomatoes.
Best Type of Tomatoes for Salsa
Many people – those that do not have access to ‘Jitomate’ – opt for a ‘standard’ tomato to make salsa. Standard in this instance meaning the shop-bought typically globe-shaped tomato. After all, a ‘standard’ fresh tomato is, for the most part, a better alternative to shop-bought canned tomatoes.
The problem though is that the word ‘standard’ as it applies to the choice of tomato for salsa also implies that the salsa will be ‘standard’.
There’s no such thing as a ‘standard’ salsa, other than here in the Philippines where restaurants are generally completely clueless about salsa. Ask for the salsa aperitif in a restaurant here in the Philippines and you’ll likely receive a bowl of chopped up raw tomatoes and little more than that.
To add insult to injury, those tomatoes will likely have been harvested far too soon and will have been refrigerated.
As a matter of routine, there’s not even any salt added.
But that’s enough about that for now…
Let’s presume we want to make a traditional salsa cruda.
What is a salsa cruda?
Here’s the britannica.com definition:
Mexican salsa cruda is an uncooked mixture of chopped tomatoes, onions, jalapeño peppers, and cilantro, or coriander leaf, that is extensively used as a table condiment.
Incidentally, salsa cruda is also referred to as pico de gallo. Pico de gallo is Spanish for ‘beak of rooster’. In what way does this – ‘beak of rooster’ – apply to salsa? Your guess is as good as mine 😉
So, in effect, we want to utilize raw tomatoes – uncooked tomatoes – in our salsas. That is on the provision we want to make salsa cruda.
And we also want to use tomatoes that come with a really potent flavor. If this is possible to achieve.
Best Tomato for Salsa
The best tomato for salsa is, for obvious reasons, going to be one that is freshly picked off the bush. Second choice would be ‘Jitomate’ tomatoes that are bought from the shop. And third choice would be the ‘standard’ globe-shaped tomatoes, likewise, bought from the shop.
Yeah, this last option seems a counterintuitive choice. But there are good reasons to buy shop-sold globe-shaped tomatoes.
#1 is that globe-shaped tomatoes from the shop are very easy to slice up. Little mess. Quick. It’s something we habitually do many days of each week. Second nature, if you will.
The #2 reason is that for many folks ‘Jitomate’ is not available.
#3 reason is that globe-shaped tomatoes from the shop are customarily nicely juicy. Salsa cruda is best when nicely juicy.
The only downside with globe-shaped tomatoes from the shop is that they tend to have little flavor.
Cherry tomatoes are an excellent choice for salsas. Sweet, juicy. But there’s a downside with cherry tomatoes. Preparation is messy and difficult.
If patience and time are on your side, then give cherry tomatoes a shot. You will not be disappointed.
Best Tomatoes to Grow for Salsa – Best Tomatoes to Plant for Salsa
There are a couple of other commonly used tomatoes for salsa cruda:
Depending on your preferences (and I do emphasize this – depending on your preferences) both are better used in cooking. Roma, in particular, is excellent for sauces.
Read: Best Tomato For Sauce
You see, both roma and pear tomatoes do not possess a lot of juice content. Hence, perhaps not such a good choice for salsa cruda.
If you were to roast roma tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes (fire-roasted is best) you’ll have an excellent salsa addition. Nevertheless, should any of your salsa’s ingredients be cooked, then you no longer have a salsa cruda.
Now it’s worth noting that there’s something of a caveat going on here.
For many folks, they don’t want a ‘wet’ salsa cruda. I mean, if you’re intent on dipping your chips into a salsa you don’t want it – the salsa – to be dripping all over the place.
Plus, you’ll want plenty of flavor within every bite.
With roma you get this: You get less juice. And you get plenty of flavor. You’ll certainly get a whole lot more flavor from a freshly picked roma tomato than you would from a shop-bought ‘standard’ globe-shaped tomato!
So roma, in fact, can be an excellent choice of tomato for salsa cruda – providing you want your salsa to be reasonably dry.
What about canned plum tomatoes? Any good for salsa cruda?
Lots of juice in canned plum tomatoes. But there’s few seeds and little to zero flavor. So not a good choice either.
So, as it happens, and again, unless you can harvest fresh from the bush, the shop-bought globe tomatoes are likely the best option for salsa cruda / pico de gallo. Either that or if you prefer a reasonably dry salsa cruda (ideal for dipping chips and the like), go for the good old roma tomato (if you can get it)!
Best Heirloom Tomatoes for Salsa
There’s an heirloom tomato cultivar called ‘Brandywine‘ which is ideal for fresh salsas. ‘Brandywine’ is meaty. Plus, it has excellent color and flavor.
Combine ‘Brandywine’ together with your choice of yellow tomato (‘Yellow Pear’, as mentioned above, is a good one). This way you’ll have a beautiful combination of colors.
If you can’t find ‘Brandywine’, instead go for ‘Black Krim’ or ‘Mr. Stripey’ heirloom tomatoes. These two are also a great choice.