Why tomatoes aren’t tomatoes anymore

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 Learn the difference between store bought and home grown tomatoes and why you should eat ugly produce

Why Tomatoes Aren’t Tomatoes Anymore

This post is part of a series from an interview with a local produce stand owner and operator, Mary Beth Pope of Mary Beth’s Sustainable Foods located in South Carolina. Selling locally sourced and organic food

Mary Beth has operated a successful local produce stand for over five years but has a lifetime of experience with living sustainable and sourcing locally

When talking with Mary Beth I asked her about the heirloom tomatoes she sells and commented on the amazing flavor and color they have.

The question I am most often asked, “why doesn’t a tomato taste like a tomato anymore?”  Industrial farming has destroyed tomatoes and everything we love about them. They are bred to travel well, look perfect, and flavor is not even a consideration. Most tomatoes consumed by the US are grown in Florida, an environment totally inhospitable for growing tomatoes. Tomatoes like heat, but not humidity. The sandy soil in Florida is devoid of nutrients that tomatoes require, resulting in the need for an overabundance of chemical fertilizers, not to mention countless pesticides and insecticides. Picked green, an immature green, gassed with ethylene( tomatoes produce this naturally as well) that allows them to turn a shade of red, but cannot develop more flavor because they are picked so immature. 

Tomatoes in the majority of the super markets don’t even have a name anymore, they have a number. They have been adulterated and chemically engineered so much that they can’t  even be called a tomato.  The genetically modified (GMO) tomatoes are specifically engineered to look perfectly round, stay fresh longer, and last several weeks of shipping and handling before reaching consumers.

Mature green tomatoes can be kept in storage at around 10 degrees Celsius  for about three weeks. Or they can be stored in special holding rooms which have a low-oxygen atmosphere for up to ten weeks without spoilage or further ripening. At any time within this period, the tomatoes can be treated with ethylene gas and be ready to hit your grocer’s shelves in about two to three weeks. A fully ripe tomato could be stored under similar conditions for only about one week, therefore making them cost prohibitive.

Unlike supermarket tomatoes, the tomatoes you will  find from your local produce stand or farmers markets are generally only picked days or the same day you see them for sale. Preserving the nutritional value, taste, and quality you would expect from a tomato.

It’s good to be ugly. Learn to be OK with imperfect food because rarely in nature will you find a perfect specimen by today’s standards. Commercial producers throw out ugly food because they have learned that consumers don’t want to pay as much for them even though they taste the same and have the same nutritional value. They have injected and sprayed chemicals so insects will avoid eating produce or die trying. Produce that has visible signs that another species tried to take a bite is a GOOD thing. Do you really want to eat produce that is purposely designed to kill (I refer to them as 007 produce, a license to kill) just so it can meet our high standards for perfection? So next time you cut into that ripe tomato and find a stowaway, say “Yes! I’m eating wholesome food” and flick em’ off or feed to the chickens.

If you want optimal nutrition and flavor from a tomato, the way God intended them to be, grow your own or buy from a local farmer.

Here are some more reasons to enjoy those garden fresh tomatoes, look at the amazing benefits and phytonutrients!

Health Benefits of tomatoes

Tomatoes are a treasure of riches when it comes to their antioxidant benefits. In terms of conventional antioxidants, tomatoes provide an excellent amount of vitamin C and beta-carotene; a very good amount of the mineral manganese; and a good amount of vitamin E. In terms of phytonutrients, tomatoes are basically off the chart, and include:

  • Flavonones
    • naringenin
    • chalconaringenin
  • Flavonols
    • rutin
    • kaempferol
    • quercetin
  • Hydroxycinnamic acids
    • caffeic acid
    • ferulic acid
    • coumaric acid
  • Carotenoids
    • lycopene
    • lutein
    • zeaxanthin
    • beta-carotene
  • Glycosides
    • esculeoside A
  • Fatty acid derivatives
    • 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid

How to find a farmers market, produce stand or CSA go to:


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1 Comment

  1. […] To learn more about the difference between fresh, local, organic produce and store-bought produce, read Why Tomatoes aren’t Tomatoes Anymore […]

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