I used to hate tomatoes. Well, I used to hate a lot of foods, in particular most vegetables. (I know tomatoes are actually considered fruits…but I still didn’t like them.) I was averse to the texture and taste of tomatoes, whether on my sandwiches or in salads, and I would certainly never take a bite out of a tomato purchased at the grocery store. It wasn’t until I had a tomato right off the vine, grown in my parents’ backyard, that I realized what I’d been missing. Sure enough, the tomato was sweet and juicy and flavorful, not bland and mealy. Last year, my partner Dustin grew Sungold tomatoes, and I couldn’t get enough of them. They truly pushed me over the edge into tomato-loving land. This year, I can’t wait for tomatoes to become available at farmers markets and in our community garden (which Dustin and I have been completely neglecting, so I’m not sure if we’ll have dibs on the tomatoes).
Regardless, I still don’t like tomatoes from the grocery store if it’s not tomato season. Even if the tomatoes look red and juicy and are labeled “vine-ripened,” chances are they were ripened by a chemical fog, in a truck on the way from Florida, and won’t taste very sweet. NPR had a really interesting interview with the author of Tomatoland, a book all about industrial tomatoes (the ones available at most grocery stores). You can hear the interview on Fresh Air here. It gives some great information on where our tomatoes come from, and why we have to put up with such terrible tasting ones. (Simple answer: because they come from far away and are out of season most of the year).
Grow tomatoes if you can. Buy them at the farmers market or a farm if you can. You’ll have to look harder and wait longer for them, but it’s worth it for a delicious tomato.
I also wanted to include a recipe for canning tomatoes, which is a great way to preserve fresh-tasting tomatoes so you can eat them year-round. Last summer, when Dustin grew lots of tomatoes in the garden, I used this recipe to can whole tomatoes. The results were great, because we used the tomatoes throughout the year when making homemade pizza sauce.