Friday, July 6, 2012

I used to hate tomatoes

I was cool with tomato products...tomato sauce, tomato puree, tomato paste, EVEN sundried tomatoes, but never a chunk of raw or cooked tomato. I claimed it was a texture thing. The slimy part that encases the seeds even grossed me out when I touched it. I've been claiming it's a texture thing my entire life! But the year of 2012, as with several years before it, has seen a slew of taste-horizon-broadenings. So far summer squash and eggplant have made the list...and now....tomatoes.

I will still say that it's mostly been a texture thing...if it tastes like cardboard. But when I popped a sunburst cherry tomato in my mouth the farmers market, I had a revelation: those things taste awesome!!! Sun = yellow/orange and burst = what they do in your mouth. Amazing. As I am wont to do these days, I had started experimenting with making my own salad dressings, and I decided it was time for me to try the tomato vinaigrette I'd been eyeing in my cookbook for a few months. I bought two heirloom tomatoes (the ones with the pumpkin shape) at the farmers market, pureed the heck out of them with some garlic, and then combined the puree with white wine vinegar, dried oregano, and olive oil. Oh my GOD. Suddenly, I was opening up the bottle every day just to get a whiff of...get this: not the vinegar, but the beautiful and unique aroma of a FRESH tomato.
My boyfriend's heirloom Cherokee tomato ripening off the vine, otherwise things eat it right up (left) and an heirloom tomato variety from the farmers market, so ripe that I better use it fast (right)

Now I really wish my tomato plant wasn't barely surviving.
Mr. Cherokee Tomato Plant 3 months ago, before it got planted into an environment it is clearly unhappy with.

Well, today I stumbled across this article, which explains why supermarket (read: conventional, industrialized) tomatoes taste like cardboard. Scientists have modified a protein in conventional tomatoes that makes them ripen evenly (ya know, in the truck across the border after being blasted with gas), but prevents them from photosynthesizing as effectively...thus removing much of their flavor (sugars and acids). I'm going to guess that it probably removes some beneficial nutrients as well (the two tend to be related).

I think I'm healing my relationship with tomatoes in whatever form they happen to be in, and the texture is just becoming a non-issue because they now taste like heaven to me. Maybe it's because the few times I had tried raw or cooked tomato chunks in the past is because they were most certainly conventionally grown.

And remember, fruit sugars locked into the fibers of fruits are not evil. Enjoy!

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