Your resident Californian Southern transplant (and cautious tomato eater) is back with tomato-eating advice.

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We're in the throes of summer and that means a few things around here. Peaches are in abundance. Juicy abundance. The weather is (at times) miserable. This Californian did not know and does not understand why it is hot, humid, AND thunder storming. Rain is a really, really foreign concept where I'm from.

And, among other summer happenings, it's tomato season, people! My family is slinging plump beefsteaks, craggily heirlooms, firm Early Girls, and vibrant Sungold, Black Cherry, and Brandywine baby tomatoes at our friend's farmers market stand. Who knew (not I!) there were so many types…and so many ways to eat tomatoes?

Just Ripe for Summer: Old Fashioned Tomato Pie
Credit: Iain Bagwell

I've got a confession before we go any further. I actually can't say with 100 percent journalistic honesty that I like tomatoes. This stems from a traumatic kindergarten cherry tomato experience. It was my first time ever eating a tomato, and I put the whole thing in my mouth, bit down, and was met with the most unpleasant taste of my five-year-old life. Being, even then, a people pleaser, I swallowed it against the will of my tongue and tastebuds and proceed to pretty much avoid them all together. There have been some pleasant run-ins here and there, but I still can't say I'm in love. Luckily, the Southern Living editorial team came and weighed in. And don't worry—I may not like tomatoes much, but I do eat them. It just means they must be darn good. Here are our (mostly their) five favorite ways to eat tomatoes as a snack, main dish, side, and even dessert that have me rethinking my tomato stance.

Tomato Pie

Pie is perhaps the tomato's flex as most versatile fruit. Designated a vegetable by the Supreme Court but technically a fruit, it shines as both a savory and sweet creation.

The Old-Fashioned Summer Tomato Pie got the most votes from the team as the best tomato-eating vehicle, and after a little hesitation (it was mostly the mayo; I have a strong dislike for condiments) it was the cup of Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano that won me over.

Tomato Galette
Credit: Photographer and props: Jennifer Causey Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

However, while a pie sounds mighty fine, I'm a little lazy in the baking department and always prefer a galette. No pie dish, no crimping, no blind-baking, no fuss. It's a dump-and-fold operation that I can get behind. I'm keen to make this Tomato Galette, which uses my personal favorites (as far as favorites go for me in the tomato world), heirlooms.  

One of the biggest shockers was the concept of the sweet tomato pie. Apparently, firm green tomatoes liken to the consistency (and flavor) of apples or rhubarb with the help of a few spices. In the case of our Green Tomato Pie recipe, those spices would be cloves and cinnamon. The crust, which uses a good dose of solidified bacon fat, sealed the deal for me.

Salad Star

Of course, tomatoes are a salad staple, but they can also be a salad star. Though I prefer cooked tomatoes, raw ones are pleasant on a warm summer evening when sliced and properly flavored. (You may even consider a plain tomato properly flavored, and that is totally fine, too.) There's the dependably delicious caprese salad, but with a whole summer of tomato fun, you're going to want to diversify the salad options.

Tomato and Watermelon Salad
Credit: Oxmoor House

Try this Sesame Tomato Cucumber Salad—I may even venture to drizzle on some sesame oil in addition to the seeds. For the epitome of a summer appetizer, make our Tomato and Watermelon Salad. It's a rainbow of bright tomatoes and sweet watermelon dancing with black pepper and red onions under a simple vinaigrette.

Classic Sandwich

There's probably nothing simpler than a tomato and mayo sandwich, and the spin-offs are pretty much endless.

It starts with the bread. Please invest in some good bread. Once you've got a solid base, it's time to assemble.

The SL BLT
Credit: Alison Miksch

If you're going the traditional route, go ahead and be on your merry way. Read on, however, for twists on this beloved classic starting with an Open-Faced Tomato Sandwich with Creamy Cucumber Spread. Pick the juiciest, most beautiful tomatoes you can find, as they'll be the star atop a bed of creamy, cool cucumber cream cheese.

The traditionalists will appreciate the BLT, and our recipe has a secret ingredient: garlicky mayo. Combine that with some smokey bacon, and against my better judgement, my nose will probably lead me to the kitchen.

Fried & Green

Yes, Fried Green Tomatoes need a category of their own. They're a staple in the Southern food cannon—how could we leave them out? Green tomatoes are essential to this operation as they're firmer and less watery than their ripe counterparts. End result? A piping hot tangy tomato that's wonderfully crisp and just a little salty.

Fried Green Tomato Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
Credit: Greg Dupree; Food Styling: Anna Hampton; Prop Styling: Ginny Branch

Gravies, Marinated, and Jam—Oh My!

If the sweet green tomato pie was the first shock, consider the concept of tomato gravy the second. That, and the jam. They were novel enough to create intrigue but not so far out that I was scared off. All I need is a biscuit and I'll be on my way.

For the tomato purists among us, there is always the option to marinate them and then eat them on their own or throw them into another dish, like this Pasta with Marinated Tomatoes or Spaghetti with Marinated Tomatoes and Mozzarella. So, what are you waiting for? Get down to the farmers market and scoop up some of summer's beauties before the season ends.