Even saying ‘to-mah-to’ isn’t enough to ensure good taste
Updated: July 12, 2012 6:29PM
What I really want this summer is an excellent tomato.
Not a tomato that looks good. I don’t necessarily care about looks.
What I want is … well, a tomato that tastes like a tomato.
Is that too much to ask for?
If you don’t grow your own tomatoes, apparently it is.
Tomatoes are supposed to taste so good, so sweet and juicy, that you’re tempted to eat them like an apple. Just take a hold of one and bite into the glorious sun-ripened fruit.
But if you buy your tomatoes at the grocery story, they don’t taste that way. They taste like cardboard.
Let me give you an example. I have a recipe for an Italian tomato salad that is really quite simple — sliced tomatoes, sliced onion and an oil and vinegar dressing. It is quite good … when made with fresh tomatoes.
I made it this year for a neighbor’s Fourth of July party. I went to the store and bought these great looking tomatoes — bright red and still on the vine. But I was fooled. Despite the good looks, they tasted awful. I was quite embarrassed by my Italian tomato salad, and I want to apologize for it here in print.
But it’s not me. It is the lousy store-bought tomatoes.
There is a reason why store-bought tomatoes taste so awful. In the end, it is about how we buy tomatoes.
Researchers have found that shoppers tend to buy the best-looking and not the best-tasting produce in the store. So tomatoes are bred to look good.
Unfortunately, there is a big downside to making good-looking tomatoes.
The same mutation that makes for evenly ripened, beautiful tomatoes also causes a reduction in flavor. In other words, you can’t have both. You either get a good-looking tomato that tastes like crap or you get a great-tasting tomato that is uglier than sin.
And researchers have found consumers buy the good-looking tomato most of the time.
I guess there is a life lesson in there somewhere.
So I have few choices if I want a tomato that tastes the way I remember it when I was a kid when everything was the greatest.
I can grow my own, which ain’t gonna happen.
I can wait for the farmers markets, but what if I want a tomato during the week?
Or I can go to the store, buy
the tomatoes and just look at them. After all, that’s what they’re bred for.