Commercially-Grown TomatoesIf you are wondering why tomatoes these days don't seem to taste as good as they did thirty or forty years ago, it's no wonder. Commercial breeding for looks and long transport timetables is to blame. No store-bought tomato can compare to one that is grown at home. Commercial tomatoes are picked when still firm and green to minimize shipping damage, usually a good two weeks before optimum ripe stage. They are then held in cold storage up to a month before they reach the shelves of your market. Ethylene gas chambers are used to artificially induce color and ripeness. Luckily, tomatoes are so easy to grow that many of us grow them at home, either in gardens or containers.
There is some minor redemption to be had for commercial tomatoes, if you plan ahead. Tomatoes will ripen and develop a bit more flavor if left at room temperature in indirect (not direct) sunlight for three to five days or when placed in a paper bag with an apple or banana for a day or two. They still won't be as flavorful as home-grown tomatoes allowed to truly ripen on the vine, but there is some small improvement if you don't have the luxury of a garden. However, if the supplier has not judged properly and has picked those green tomatoes too soon, nothing will help them.
Keep in mind that although they may look alike when you purchase them, one tomato may ripen faster than another. Since commercial tomatoes are bred to be firm, the touch test is seldom a good indicator of ripeness.
Hydroponic TomatoesHydroponic tomatoes may look beautiful and perfect to the eye, but they are sadly lacking in flavor and contain less vitamin C. Hydroponic tomatoes are grown in greenhouses and do not get the full benefit of the sun, nor do they pull flavor from natural soil. When buying greenhouse tomatoes, take note of the attached stems and leaves for freshness. Wilted leaves and brittle stems are a dead giveaway of storage age.
More about Tomatoes and Tomato Recipes: Tomato History
Tomato Lore and Legends
Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable? FAQ
Vine-ripened Tomatoes FAQ
Tomato Selection and Storage
Commercially-Grown and Hydroponic Tomatoes
Are there male and female tomatoes? FAQ
Tomatoes and Health
Tomato Cooking Tips and Hints
Tomato Equivalents and Substitutions
Photo © 2006 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.
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