Whether you say ‘tomato’ or ‘tomahto’, what passes for Lycopersicon esculentum in stores these days is a mad huge disappointment. Unless the genetic engineers fix the tomato they have broken, I say let’s call the whole thing off.
The supermarket faux-tomato is crossbred for resistance to pests and diseases, to have firm flesh and thick skin. It’s picked when it’s green and ripened in a warehouse with ethylene gas. Flavor? It tastes more like cardboard than fruit. Researchers have discovered one reason why: a genetic mutation, common in store-bought tomatoes, that reduces the amount of sugar and other tasty compounds.
I grow my own tomatoes and vegetables and shop the farmers’ markets for berries. I visit farm-to-table cafes and talk to locavore chefs who love to share their newfangled takes on classic, and not-so-classic, vegetables. I cannot tell a lie ~ I’m a gawker who trolls the glossy pages of seed catalogs. And quirky garden websites.
Got a culinary obsession? I do. Tomatoes that taste like, well, tomatoes.
Humble heirlooms grown without crossbreeding. And, if they happen to look like Jesus, it just might be a sign.
Singer/songwriter Kate Campbell thought so when she saw this on a roadside in North Carolina.
I bought a pack of seeds
The best homegrown you’ll find
How it happened I don’t know
Must’ve been the Miracle-Gro
Oh, I could not believe my eyes
In my tomato bed
A holy image blood red.
Have a listen.
Click on playlist in the upper left hand corner, then click on the third song down, Jesus and Tomatoes Coming Soon.
The Tennessee Bradley tomato in Campbell’s song was released in 1961 by Dr. Joe McFerran of the University of Arkansas.
Dr. Joe named this tomato in honor of his father, Bradley. It’s perfect for a ‘mater sandwich.
Farming is no romp ~ it’s a sweat job to take care of the land, plant the right seeds in the right places, and be the engine for the delicious revolution going on. Farmers constantly tinker with plants to improve the taste and nutrition of what we pluck from store shelves. Organically. Responsibly.
Love corn? Right this minute, they’re stalking the perfect ear, the best homegrown from heaven what rises up from the dirt.
It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.