Tomatoes Have Turned On Us

A-ha! I knew it. And so did you. Maybe it started out as a sneaking suspicion… perhaps one you thought you alone were harboring? It gnawed at you while you tried to make pleasant conversation at a neighborhood cookout. It bothered you while you tried in vain to enjoy your aunt’s “famous” lasagna. It kept you up night after night, likely as you plastered countless clipped articles and post-it notes and pushpins forming a vague but gathering pattern on a huge bulletin board and if you study the strange spirals over here that form when you track developments spanning from Akron to Macon to Cleveland to… OK, maybe not… not this that depth.

 But it bothered you when you were making that sandwich, no? What, you beseech, is the issue at hand?

 Well, it’s these tomatoes, man. They… they suck. These tomatoes totally suck. Which tomatoes do I mean? Most all of them, sadly. The chances are that, if in the past several years, you bought a lovely, rather spherical and rather reddish tomato at a store, you got ripped off. Swindled out of flavor! Robbed of nutrients! Duped into settling for terrible fruit (or vegetable – not even wading into that one) stuffs by the powerful tomato lobby!

 Actually… I don’t think there even is a tomato lobby! What a silly thing to say… now that this nice basket of various sauces and pastes has been delivered. (Ha! Just kidding! But… if there is anyone from any such lobby with such gifts on hand… I have a price tag, sir or madam. Call me). No, it’s not a political problem, it’s genetics. Look here.

So I implore you! At least, those of you who care about this sort of thing… say no to awful tomatoes! Or at least say yes to good ones. And how, you ask? Why, it’s simple! Just go out and get yourself a patch of good soil with at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight and decent drainage, get yourself an irrigation system set up (or plan to do a lot of hand watering), plant some seeds or transplant some seedlings, fertilize on schedule, wire/trestle, trim, shape, etc., and soon enough, awesome tomatoes for your gazpacho, your, caprese, et al! Or you could just go to local purveyors of fine foods and, better yet, look for local Farmer’s Markets.

The other option, if the painstaking process of growing food is daunting or implausible (say you live in an apartment… gardens and apartments? Usually a bad marriage) or if you don’t have any good markets around, is to embrace what I will (obtusely) call the “other” tomatoes. Never tried an heirloom variety? Terrified by their strange colors and shapes? Hey, I totally get it. I used to be just like you. But I grew tired of ethylene gas ripened spheres of tasteless blah and finally bit into one of those misshapen babies. Now? Well, we do grow our own most of the time now. But if the plants are low on fruit (or… vegetable… yes), I turn not to the mass-produced flavorless red thingy, but to the ugly as hell, delicious… Other. Try it. Once you see what you have been missing, you might just join the movement. One day, we may just win.