Sack of tomatoes

Ever wonder why tomatoes don’t taste really good anymore? The gap between the vine-ripened beauty in the backyard garden and the inhabitants of salad bars and grocery stores is more of a chasm, and journalist Barry Estabrook tells us why in Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit. From the mountains of Peru, where the tomato originated (and where Estabrook follows a UC Davis plant geneticist in search of specimens that are rapidly disappearing) to the huge sandy fields of Florida, where most table tomatoes in the U.S. are grown in a stew of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides (and tended by immigrants in what often amounts to slave labor), this is the story of what should be our premier fruit. Instead, it’s picked green and artificially ripened with ethylene, which is why commercial tomatoes taste like cardboard. This is a microcosm of what’s wrong with American agriculture, and it is required reading.