Tomatoes find their way into most summer dishes; they sneak into pastas, salads, and casseroles, adding juicy texture and sharp flavor to lunches and dinners. We want to celebrate the tomato harvest this July, and since it’s not just for spaghettis, Bloody Marys, and salsas anymore, we’re getting creative with some of our favorite produce this month, starting with Fried Green Tomatoes with Buttermilk-Feta Dressing and Savory Tomato Cobbler.

Photo: Ralph Anderson

Surprising truths about these seasonal beauties.

Some of our favorite summertime farmer’s market hauls include too many tomatoes for our own good. From the big, so-ugly-it’s-pretty heirlooms to small, round cherry tomatoes that taste so good you can pop them in your mouth like grapes (and trust me, I do!), there’s something about fresh juicy tomatoes that make us feel we’re home. Like peaches, they’re engrained into our Southern souls.

Year-round, many of our dishes revolve around tomatoes or some sort of derivative of them—using tomato paste, canned tomatoes, and unfortunately whatever ones the supermarket has if we can’t get them in peak season at our farmstands or from our garden. In the summer, though, tomatoes get to shine in their most raw and beautiful form. From a cool Tomato, Peach, and Corn Salad to a spunky Cherry Tomato Fondue, the tomatoes get to shine. Make some Tomato Tea Sandwiches to accompany your sweet tea on the porch, or whip together a chilled Chunky Tomato-Fruit Gazpacho. Just no matter what, keep ‘em coming until they go out of business for the season.

WATCH: How To Make a Tomato Pie

Now, there are some myths about tomatoes circulating that we want to set right. When it comes to ripening, storing, and preserving this precious produce, it won’t do any good to do it wrong. Keeping good tomatoes fresh and at optimal taste is in everyone’s best interest, so here are a few things that might need to be straightened out about your tomatoes.

MYTH: Never refrigerate tomatoes.

Store at room temperature unless they are very, very ripe. To halt the ripening process, you can refrigerate them one to two days at most.

MYTH: Store tomatoes stem-side up.

Though it might look a little weird, storing your fresh tomatoes stem-side down can help prevent bruises.

MYTH: To ripen tomatoes, leave them uncovered.

Place underripe tomatoes in one layer in a paper bag, and close it loosely. Leave in a warm, dry spot, and check daily for ripeness.