Friday, September 2, 2011

Why don't Tomatoes taste like I remember?

Robert asked "Why don't Tomatoes taste like I remember them?" Apart from the damage cigarettes and beer do to your taste buds the answer is we just don't grow them ourselves any more.

Growing at home has two distinct flavour advantages: Vine ripening and Breeding.

Sugar levels and "complex flavour components" develop in the last week to 2 weeks of the Tomato's ripening process. Commercial tomatoes are picked as soon as the grower knows the colour will develop fully, problem with this is the colour will develop but once picked the flavour development stops. I have read that the acid level of Tom Grosse Lisse develops so far in this final stage that it's best to manage the process by picking this variety a little early. I'm personally sceptical of "vine ripened" Tomatoes in supermarkets, and I know that growers keep a few plants for themselves that are not harvested until the fruit is properly ripe.

And breeding?  Here's a favourite frustration; Truss Tomatoes. All Tomatoes grow in trusses! Truss Tomatoes at the supermarket have been breed specifically to produce an attractive truss that presents beautifully in plastic wrapping. Flavour is a secondary consideration. If you are looking for trusses, try Tomato Riesentraube.  The translation from German is "giant bunches of grapes", now that might lack subtlety but it certainly is a truss. Heirloom and heritage varieties lack the disease resistance and shelf life of modern hybrids, the fruit might crack and they are often more difficult to harvest mechanically but they are popular because their flavour is the reason they were selected in the first place, all the other stuff is incidental.

Now all I have to do is work out a way to distill all that information into some easy to read posters.

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