A few months back I had listened to a program on NPR where Barry Estabrook (the author of “Tomatoland”) talked about how Industrial Farming has essentially “destroyed” the tasty tomato. Here is the link. Please do listen to the program if you can – well worth it.
Anyway, the lack of taste of my raw vegetables is a source of constant annoyance for me and I am sure a lot of you. When you make a Margherita pizza where the tomato is supposed to hold court but as soon as you taste the pizza you feel like launching a revolution and sending the tomato to the gallows then it clearly is not a good situation. I personally think that the tomato is probably the most egregious example of industrial farming gone bad though I am sure there are many others.
Fed up with the rather sorry tasting tomatoes that I was using, I decided to make a trip to my local Whole Foods the last time I made pizza and see if I can get my hands on some heirloom tomatoes. According to Gary Ibsen’s “Tomatofest“, an heirloom tomato is generally considered to be a variety that has been passed down, through several generations of a family because of it’s valued characteristics. To my delight, Whole Foods had not one but five different kinds of heirloom tomatoes. Some of them were either so yellow or green that they didn’t even look like tomatoes. And they were expensive – about $3.99/lb. While they all looked rough around the edges and not the picture perfect tomatoes that I was used to buying I decided to go for them. There was a helpful guide that helped me select the variety I would use.
Came back home, washed the tomatoes, took the picture above, sliced them up and bit into a slice. It was good. It tasted like a tomato should taste like. If tomatoes were cars, I’d say that the standard store bought tomato is a Toyota Camry while the heirloom is more like a Mini Cooper. Happy to say that there was much singing and dancing around the fire that night because the Margherita pizza finally tasted like what a Margherita pizza should taste like.
Next time you are making a tomato-based recipe, try heirloom tomatoes, you might be surprised.
P.S. One exception as far as blandness goes are canned tomatoes. They don’t taste too bad in general. It probably has to do with flavorings and preservatives added to make them last and taste good.