[LAT] Grocery store tomatoes taste like cardboard — Florida researchers are fixing

Read the actual research paper here.

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“The revolution has begun.”

The revolution will not be grocerized.


Hallelujah. I thought it was me. Tomatoes suck. I don’t care where you get them.

A couple of exceptions: We had deliciously sweet cherry tomatoes from a Farmers Market last summer. But the skins were so tough, once we were finished chewing we had to spit the skins out. Weird huh? The best tomato I’ve had in years from either a grocery, farmers market or any restaurant, was Spago… Yep. Sweet, juicy, perfect acid. I became a believer that there are still great tomatoes somewhere. It also convinced me that despite the celebrity aura, Spago is serious about the food they serve. Those tomatoes were obviously set aside just for them.

I have zero trouble finding great tomatoes in season. All the farmers markets have a wide variety of heirlooms and tasty hybrids.

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Yes, I think it’s a matter of knowing which breeds you like and buying the right size and from the right farmer. As they mention in the article, terroir definitely relates to tomato crops. So you can have three farmers selling purple Cherokees but, depending where they’re grown and when they’re picked, they can all taste differently.

Nobody set out to deliberately create a tasteless tomato, of course. Instead, scientists say, modern commercial tomatoes were consistently bred for other traits, including shelf life, firmness and disease resistance.

Harry Klee, a professor in the horticulture department at the University of Florida who led the work, added that the taste probably deteriorated so slowly that most growers didn’t notice the change. “It was certainly not intentional,” he said. “It was just a slow, imperceptible degradation of flavor.”

This seems like a blatant lie to me. Growers surely knew that the hard, green tomatoes they were picking and then gassing with ethylene to make them turn red didn’t taste like real tomatoes.


“The real culprit affecting tomato flavor is a production system that picks tomatoes before they are ripe,” because that changes the ripening process, he says, interrupting for instance the conversion of starch to sugar.

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You kind of proved my point and the basis for the article. There was a time when you didn’t have to know all of that to buy a tomato. Tomatoes were juicy and delicious in the summer and grainy and tasteless in the winter. These ones I mentioned buying (sweet but tough skins) were organic cherry tomatoes from Harry’s Berry’s at peak time. What farms do you like?

As I remember, tasteless artificially ripened tomatoes supplanted real tomatoes in most supermarkets in the 1960s.

By the early 70s in San Francisco I had to go to the farmers market or an Italian or Middle Eastern grocer to get real tomatoes in season.

That was slightly before my time, but they must have been good.

I must admit I’m not a big tomato lover. I like the idea of them, but not eating them so much. This probably results in my not knowing how to pick or where to get the good ones. But I do love a perfect cherry tomato, like the ones I mentioned from Spago. Any suggestions on varietals or selecting?

I wander around and if a tomato looks good, I buy one, then taste it (out of the vendor’s view, because it would be rude to say “yuk” in front of them).

If I liked the tomato, I go back for more.

Gloria’s has good tomatoes a lot of the time.

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Good stuff.