I Say Tomato

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Heirloom Tomatoes

Throughout my career, I have given many presentations on fresh produce. Sometimes I talk about “exotic produce” (the items we sell), and other times I address an industry-related issue or take a nutritional approach to talk about the health benefits. Over the years, there has been one universal question:

“Why don’t the tomatoes I buy at the supermarket have good flavor?”

Fortunately, our industry has listened to consumers and there have been innovations in the tomato industry that have allowed us to produce and market some fantastic tasting tomatoes.

However, I believe that the No. 1 reason tomatoes don’t taste good is that they are NOT supposed to be refrigerated! And I’ve visited too many friends and gone into their kitchens to find them putting their lovely fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator and their apples on the counter. REVERSE THAT! If you put tomatoes in the refrigerator, you kill the flavor. And apples – well, they SHOULD be refrigerated to keep their crispness.

Mother Nature recently played havoc on the tomato industry. There was a devastating freeze in January that wiped out most of the Florida tomato crop. At this time of year, fresh tomatoes primarily come from two growing areas: Florida and Mexico. In addition to supplying retail supermarkets with fresh tomatoes, growers supply fresh tomatoes to foodservice operators like McDonald’s and Subway (can you imagine how many tomatoes they use a week?).

The freeze has taken out almost 50 percent of the fresh tomato crop, and it means we consumers are experiencing lighter supplies and higher prices at the supermarket. So, what to do? Try a new type of tomato!

There are still good tomato supplies coming out of Mexico. And the best value right now is the Roma Tomato. Also known as the “sauce tomato,” Romas were originally used to make thick homemade tomato sauces for pasta dishes. Now, many home cooks are discovering that Roma tomatoes can be enjoyed fresh, and are so easy to slice for salads and sandwiches.

So, as we wait for mid-April to come, and with it, new tomato supplies from Florida and greenhouse-grown tomatoes from Canada, California, Texas, Holland, Spain and many other areas, try a new tomato variety.

And, don’t forget to store them on your kitchen counter when you get home!

Karen