Why Supermarket Tomatoes Suck

From OnEarth:

An industrial Florida tomato is harvested when it is still hard and green and then taken to a packinghouse, where it is gassed with ethylene until it artificially acquires the appearance of ripeness. But as far back as the 1920s, food scientists had determined that no tomato artificially ripened with ethylene would ever have taste and texture equal to one allowed to ripen naturally. In the field, any fruits that show the slightest blush of pink, let alone red, are left to rot or are scavenged by freelance “pinhookers” who pay a small fee to enter fields that have been harvested and collect fruits showing color to sell to local restaurants and vegetable stands or through pinhookers’ markets. It’s not that the Florida growers can’t pack fully ripe tomatoes. They have done it in the past. But doing so requires frequent harvesting over a long period of time, which is costly. It is more profitable for them and their large fast food and supermarket customers to handle and sell tomatoes that are harvested in two or three passes when they are green, indestructibly hard, and impeccably smooth skinned and have a couple of weeks of shelf life ahead of them. Taste does not enter the equation. “No consumer tastes a tomato in the grocery store before buying it. I have not lost one sale due to taste,” one grower said. “People just want something red to put in their salad.”


  1. This does not surprise me, and lends teeth to the story I heard of a homeowner filing a police report when a thief stole the tomatoes, and ONLY the tomatoes, from her home garden.

  2. Last summer we grew our first tomatoes at home – with 4 plants our yield was about 6 tiny tomatoes. But they were easily the best tomatoes I’ve ever had – the tomatoes in the grocery store don’t compare at all. This doesn’t surprise me.

  3. I’m pretty sure that anyone that says they dislike tomatoes has only ever eaten the watery, dilute store-bought ones. There’s nothing quite like that smell you get from those juicy little sluts on the vine. Bruschetta made with home-grown tamatas? FUGGEHDABOUDIT

  4. Terry Gross just did a Fresh Air on the tomato with the author of Tomatoland. It was a good interview and also reminds me I need to start my own garden.

Comments are closed.