Here in Michigan, many vegetable gardeners are beginning to harvest their first tomatoes of the season. Most will agree that nothing tastes quite like a tomato grown in your own garden. In particular, people have commented for years about the taste, or lack thereof, in tomatoes purchased from the grocery store. Why is that? The following NPR interview with Barry Estabrook, former contributing editor at Gourmet magazine and author of Tomatoland, sheds some light on the subject.
Estabrook places most of the blame on consumers who want fresh tomatoes year-round, even in the depths of winter. “Depending on the time of year, at certain times of the winter, 90 percent of the fresh tomatoes that we find in the supermarkets are grown in Florida,” he says.
Florida is warm in the winter, and it’s an easy trailer-truck ride to most of the country. But Florida is also about the worst possible place to grow tomatoes. Both the climate and the soil are completely unsuitable, Estabrook says, so farmers must drench their fields in pesticides and fertilizers to have any hope of a crop.