Tantalizing Tomato Taste? NOT!


Music – “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”. Released: 2009.

Green tomatoes before and after being sent to the gas chamber! (Photo Credit: http://www.newserv.com)

Once upon a time, tomatoes tasted good…..really good.  Now, unless you lovingly plant them in your backyard yourself and nurture them to fruition with care, the tomatoes you purchase in your local supermarket will have about as much taste and texture as a wad of cotton balls in your mouth.  You know…what you taste and choke on, when you’re sitting, helpless in the dentist’s chair.  Yecch!



One of my recent acquisitions was “The Good Cook’s Book of Tomatoes“, by Michele Anna Jordan, published in 1995, but updated in 2015.

“The Good Cook’s Book of Tomatoes” by Michele Anna Jordan.

Talking about tomatoes, the author notes that “Nearly every supermarket in the country features mounds of these pale, mushy tomatoes whose taste bears not even a shadowy resemblance to what we seek”.  She goes on to ask, “How did this happen?”


This is typical of the “supermarket” tomato. A bare touch of red color, pasty in texture and with virtually no taste. (Photo Credit: http://www.sciencemag.org)








More tasteless tomatoes wrapped in plastic (Photo Credit: http://www.veggies-only.blogspot.com)

Barry Estabrook, in his book, “Tomatoland“, talks about the commercial production of “supermarket” tomatoes.  As most of us already know, ethylene gas is sprayed on unripe green tomatoes, which causes them to turn red.

As the author notes:  “Ethylene is a gaseous plant hormone that regulates plant growth. When applied to fruits, it initiates the ripening process and causes the fruit to turn red. The chemical also affects the flavor by increasing sugar compounds and decreasing acidity within the fruit. This chemical is emitted naturally by plants in fields, but only when the plants naturally want to ripen”  The key here is “…only when the plants naturally want to ripen”.

More “supermarket” tomatoes. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Global Warming Images/REX/Shutterstock (2005361a)(www.thedailymash.co.uk)

Green, unripe tomatoes awaiting their turn in the gas chamber. (Photo Credit: http://www.frontlineservices.com.au)


The problem is that although the tomatoes turn a pleasant red color (sometimes), after being sprayed with ethylene, the fruit does not actually ripen.  Estabrook also points out that exposing immature fruit to the ethylene results in fruit with “poor eating quality“. No kidding!


Some of my regular readers might remember my post, “The Terrible Tale of the Tomato Tragedy” (May 6, 2016) in which I recanted the horror of losing almost all of my carefully planted tomato seeds in a portable greenhouse, indoors.  For weeks, watering, fertilizing, thinning, moving them for optimum sun, etc. until the fateful day came to put them outside to begin “hardening off”.

Alas, in the wee hours of the morning, without any warning, the formidable, but unpredictable canyon winds came roaring through our property, relentless and endless.  The sound of the crash of the toppled greenhouse outside my bedroom window at 3:00 am was my first clue that my precious seedlings were in trouble.  Of more than a hundred seedlings, I managed to save about 20.  Heartbreaking.

This year, I have ordered transplants for my garden.  The variety of tomatoes available is astounding!  Much research has been conducted over the years to not only bring back that luscious tomato flavor we all crave, but also to breed them to be disease and pest resistant.  A tough call, but great strides have been made.

From  Territorial Seed Company out of Cottage Grove, Oregon, I ordered 4 transplants, primarily for containers, which I have in my courtyard.  I have ordered from them previously, with good results.  In a few months I’ll be receiving the likes of “Lizzano Transplant Tomato“, “Ruby Crush Transplant Tomato“, “Red Racer Transplant Tomato“, and “Artemis Transplant Tomato“.

Lizzano Transplant Tomato (Photo Credit: http://www.territorialseed.com)

Ruby Crush Transplant Tomato (Photo Credit: http://www.terrritorialseed.com)





Red Racer Transplant Tomato (Photo Credit: http://www.territorialseed.com)

Artemis Transplant Tomato (Photo Credit: http://www.territorialseed.com)


I can hardly wait!  You can order directly from them online for immediate and delayed (according to your climate zone) purchases:  http://www.territorialseed.com.




Also this year, I ordered some additional transplants from a company I was unfamiliar with until I received their catalogue:  Gurney’s Seed & Nursery Company, located in Greendale, Indiana.  From their collection I will be receiving “Early Girl Tomato“, “Iron Lady Tomato” (I wonder if this is named after Margaret Thatcher?!), “Celebration Tomato“, “Gurney’s Ruby Monster Tomato” (I just love it when the word “monster” is used to describe vegetables!) and “Sweet Million Hybrid Tomato“.

Early Girl Tomato (Photo Credit: http://www.gurneys.com)

Iron Lady Tomato (Photo Credit: http://www.gurneys.com)

Celebration Tomato (Photo Credit: http://www.gurneys.com)













Gurney’s Ruby Monster Tomato (Photo Credit: http://www.gurneys.com)



They also have online purchasing for all of their products, including seeds, transplants and much more:  http://www.gurneys.com.

Sweet Million Hybrid Tomato (Photo Credit: http://www.gurneys.com)



So, here’s to the re-birth of the good ol’ tomato of our bygone childhoods.  Long live tomatoes with flavor!

My EatYourBooks cookbook collection

About vintagecookbookery

Cookbook lover and collector with a burgeoning collection of cookbooks. Reading and researching food trends, history of cooking techniques and technological advances in cooking, what we eat and why and cookbooks as reflectors of cultures is a fascination for me. As of November 7th, 2013, I hold the current Guinness World Record title for the largest collection of cookbooks: 2,970 at the official count on July 14th, 2013 (applaud now, thank you very much!) The current (unofficial) number is now 6,500. What next? More shelves?
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2 Responses to Tantalizing Tomato Taste? NOT!

  1. vintagecookbookery says:

    Thanks, Paula. I’ve also purchased from Baker Creek in the past. I can barely wait to receive my shipment of plants within the next month or so. REAL tomatoes, once again!

  2. Paula Behr says:

    I just read your awesome interview on seriouseats.com. Your cookbook collection is amazing. I love cookbooks too & have about 500. I’ve donated a lot of them too. 🍅 As for tomatoes, I LOVE heirlooms for their beauty, tastiness, & disease resistance. My favorite seed company is Baker Creek Heirloom seeds for their variety & quality. Last year I tried the show-stopping “Atomic Grape” tomatoes. I collect heirloom seeds to grow & pass along to others. Anyway, thanks for the fun blog.

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