Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Gas Tomatoes

I was reading a crop report from my produce supplier that indicated that gas tomatoes this week have lower pricing and excellent quality. I am amazed that anyone would suggest that gas tomatoes have anything but terrible quality.

You probably need some background to understand what I'm talking about. Modern tomatoes are bred to be uniform in size with a thick skin, and picked dead green and rock hard. That way, they pack into standard containers and ship easily with less bruising.

Then somewhere along the line, somebody puts these green rocks in a closed environment and pumps the container full of ethylene gas (hence the term 'gas tomato'). This gas causes the physiologically unripe green tomato to turn into a flavorless red rock. Then your grocer piles the rocks onto the produce shelf for you to buy.

The restaurant trade is partly to blame for this situation, since many restaurants insist on a rock hard tomato that slices well for burgers. All they want is some color and a thin slice. Flavor be damned.

Customers know that I insist on very ripe, flavorful, local tomatoes that we can only get in season, because they do not ship. The other 10 months of the year, we use canned tomatoes and grape tomatoes, which have made amazing strides in the last 10 years. The grape tomatoes we've been getting this year, with the exception of one batch, have been excellent and worth putting on our menu.

Next time you're tempted to buy a red rock, keep on walking.


  1. I often find that people who claim to not like tomatoes have never had a fresh picked, garden grown tomato. It's a shame since nothing beats the taste of a good tomato.

  2. Can't even buy tomatoes in the store anymore.... grow my own now that I finally have a yard. Before I grew my own, I would just steal them from my mother's plants.