Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tomatoes: why?

I'm going to kick things off with tomatoes, one of the most rewarding crops to grow yourself.

Why grow them yourself?

Well... You see there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, quite the same as biting down on your own home grown tomato, ripened to perfection on the vine and still warm from the afternoon sun. It bursts in your mouth with layers of buzzing flavours fading in and out of perception.

Anything you ever bought in a supermarket that you thought was a tomato, WAS NOT A TOMATO! Back in ancient times (I'm talking mid 70s here) I remember store-bought tomatoes that had flavour. We used to eat them like apples with a touch of salt. Then they vanished, to be replaced by these pale red rubber things for the next few decades. Finally, in recent years, the real live tomato (or close approximation) has begun to appear again, and in season you may be able to buy half reasonable tomatoes from good green grocers. But you know what? Despite decades of hybridisation, hydroponic juju and the very latest in plastic packaging, they are still inferior in flavour to those you can grow and harvest yourself.

There are a few simple reasons for this: 
  • Home grown varieties do not need to be picked before they ripen and transported long distances without damage. They can be picked when perfectly ripe and eaten immediately.
  • All kinds of pests and diseases can occur when crops are grown in a large industrial monoculture, so resistant varieties, which may or may not actually taste any good, are created to deal with this. When you grow a few plants at home, this isn't a problem, so you can grow whatever you like without fear of pestilence or plague.
  • Home grown tomatoes are allowed to be soft and weird looking. Commercial varieties can't be soft and weird looking because uneducated tomato buyers wouldn't buy them.
  • Home grown varieties have been selectively bred for flavour over many decades.

So, while there may be all sorts of seemingly valid reasons for commercially produced tomatoes to be hard, tasteless and uniformly uninteresting, these reasons do not apply to you! So go forth and find the most tasty, tiny, colourful and crazy varieties you can.

Next up (hopefully) I'll write about the varieties I've grown, what worked for me, what didn't. Seeya.

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