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Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Say Tomato

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!



  1. Don't forget about Eurofresh Farms - we have 318 greenhouse acres out in sunny Arizona, growing America's Best Tasting Tomatoes 365 days of the year - full of flavor and certified pesticide free! We work hard to educate our consumers, and you hit the nail on the head - "do not refrigerate" is one of the most important messages to deliver out there - you'll find it on our packaging! Great blog. JC Myers

  2. Thank you for reminding me to keep my tomatoes out of the refrigerator, it makes a big difference in the taste. Fay

  3. Good Blog. Thanks for reminding your readers to keep their tomatoes out of the fridge. I would like to add that although someone grows something doesn't mean they're doing it right. Many tomatoes are simply red water balls that need to be drenched with ranch dressing and eaten in the dark. Refrigerated or not, they're simply poor quality tomatoes. Not to mention the ethylene gassing that occurs during the post harvest of many field-grown fresh market tomatoes.

    Proper growth environment (light, temperature, relative humidity, carbon dioxide) and fertilization are important to a flavorful tomato. I'm familiar with Eurofresh and its growing operations. They grow a good tomato. So do the folks at Desert Glory marketed as NatureSweet. Both greenhouse operations have mastered the art of nutrition and have set minimum quality control standards (taste) based at least in part by the %Brix of their products. In general %Brix is a measure of the sugars i.e. the "flavor" of fruits and vegetables. Consumers can buy instruments called refractometers which measure %Brix. They sell for approximately $100 and are a great asset to any foodie or concerned consumer.

  4. This is great information about the tomato. Another benefit to eating lots of tomatoes is that studies have shown (even a Harvard study) that foods rich in the carotenoid Lutein, found in tomatoes, kale, romaine lettuce, dill, corn, carrots, parsley, potatoes, blue, red & purple fruits, etc. are excellent sources to boost eye health.

  5. Karen, you are so right! My grape tomatoes are sitting on my counter next to the vitamins.

  6. Great information Karen...keep spreading the word on fresh produce. Even those of us in the industry need to be reminded of "best practices". Another helpful hint is to keep your tomatoes facing calyx up (stem). The tomato has about 90% water in its makeup. The area around the calyx is suseptible to blistering or mold and by placing a tomato stem down it allows the water to settle in the most tender place on the tomato...try it, you will be surprised.

  7. Thanks, everyone, for the comments! Keep them coming…

    Thanks to Eurofresh, Desert Glory (NatureSweet) and many other fine companies for growing some excellent-flavor tomatoes. And, we can’t forget about the health benefits of Lutein and Lycopene, the nutrient powerhouses in tomatoes. Thanks also for the tip about keeping tomatoes stem-up.


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