Yesterday's installment of NPR's Fresh Air featured Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland, which investigates just why our plump and beautiful supermarket tomatoes also taste like soggy styrofoam. In short, they are bred for weight and aesthetics, not for taste, because the farmers get paid by the pound, not by the "Mmmm":
"For the last 50 or more years, tomato breeders have concentrated essentially on one thing and that is yield — they want plants that yield as many or as much as possible," writer Barry Estabrook tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "They also want those fruits to be able to stand up to being harvested, packed, artificially turned orange [with ethylene gas] and then shipped away and still be holding together in the supermarket a week or 10 days later." [NPR 2011]His opening vignette with Gross discusses how a few of these mutant Florida green tomatoes flew off a truck near his car while he was driving down the road. They almost broke his window. But what he later saw was not damaged tomatoes, but still perfectly formed and firm green tomatoes on their way to have whatever it is Big Ag does with that ethylene gas to them to turn them red extra fast.
Click on the link at the beginning to go to the podcast page.