A ripe, in-season tomato bursting with rich flavour is unparalleled, especially when compared to the dull, grainy texture of an off-season one. However, even the finest tomatoes can be enhanced using just one essential ingredient: salt.
Delving deeper, salt initiates osmosis. This scientific process pulls the tomato's juices from areas with low solute concentration (within the tomato cells) through a membrane (the cell walls) towards areas with high solute concentration (outside the cells). In simpler terms, in just a few minutes, salt makes tomatoes exude their juices, yielding a less watery and more flavour-packed fruit.
But there's more to it. Salt triggers our salivary glands to release saliva, which helps disperse flavours to our taste buds. Additionally, it masks any bitter undertones, rendering the tomato even more delectable.
Why does salt enhance flavour?
Taste is a multifaceted experience. While once believed that distinct areas of the tongue were designated for specific tastes (salt, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami), recent studies show that individual taste cells can detect multiple flavours. Salt, in particular, is a versatile enhancer: in low concentrations, it reduces bitterness and amplifies sweet, sour, and umami, making it ideal for sweet dishes, while in higher amounts, it emphasizes umami and diminishes sweetness, suiting savoury recipes.
These fascinating characteristics have made many avid proponents of salting tomatoes. As with many enthusiasts, there are some essential guidelines to follow:
Tomato Salting Guidelines
Salting for Salads: If you've added tomatoes to salads, you might notice the liquid pooling at the base, making your salad leaves soggy. The solution? Pre-salt your tomatoes and let them drain in a colander for 15-20 minutes. This amplifies their flavour and ensures the only liquid is your preferred dressing.
Salting for Later Use: This rule applies to tomatoes in dishes that won't be consumed immediately. Pre-salting is key for dishes prepared well in advance, like picnic foods or homemade lunches.
For Immediate Consumption: If you're serving right away, make the most of the tomato's inherent juiciness by salting just before eating. It's an immediate flavour booster.
Choose Your Salt Wisely: For draining tomatoes, table salt is ideal – a generous teaspoon for every pound should suffice. But if you're about to savour them immediately, go for finishing salts. Sea salt flakes and Himalayan pink salt add bursts of flavour and a delightful crunch, something regular salts can't match. Want to know more about salt?