Who let Monsanto into the tomato patch?

There are millions of Americans who do not know what a real tomato tastes like. They think it’s the crunchy, flavorless rock-hard orb that appears in the supermarket – and your expensive restaurant salad or sandwich — for nine months of the year.

We’re savoring the last tomatoes of the gardening season, just as the Wall Street Journal published a whole section on “Innovations in Agriculture.” Which, because their primary market is Wall Street, means chemicals and genetic engineering.

WSJ’s history of tomatoes

I grew up on a farm, so I know the agricultural industrial complex has helped multiply yields on crops from soybeans to wheat – and helped feed the world. I draw the line at fresh vegetables for human consumption. Big Ag has created monster vegetables and fruits to withstand the trek from field to market. And we’re all the poorer for it.

Journalist Barry Estabrook blew the whistle on the tomato killers with his book, “Tomatoland: How modern industrial agriculture destroyed our most alluring fruit.”

He describes how tomato growers essentially bred the flavor out of tomatoes as a sacrifice to getting the tender fruit to market. That’s why you can buy tomatoes year-round. They may be hard as baseballs and utterly tasteless, but their red beauty draws consumers like Snow White to the poisoned apple. At least you won’t die from it.

Draw the line at the end of the season. Swear off tomatoes until the next season brings around locally grown tomatoes that taste like…well…tomatoes. LIke these last offerings from our garden we’re slicing into: juicy, sweet, glorious. Not for nothing are they called love apples.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.

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