In America’s melting pot of food culture, few ingredients have been as broadly assimilated as the tomato. Whether it’s ketchup, marinara, salsa, or just fodder for salads, our country’s demand for the tomato is extreme. But as journalist Barry Estabrook says in an interview with Salon, America’s love for the tomato has turned it into a tasteless commodity. How? Simple economics. A tomato grower puts it bluntly, “I don’t get paid a cent for flavor, not one cent. I get paid for weight."
Half a century of commercial farming has zapped the genes that give a tomato its flavor. And one-third of the US tomato crop grows in the sands of Florida, a pretty terrible place to grow anything. “It never gets winters, so bugs are present year-round, it’s notoriously humid, and fungi thrive," says Estabrook, author of Tomatoland. "All Florida tomatoes live off of are fertilizers and chemicals that are injected into the soil.” His advice: Grow your own or hit the farmers' market. (Click to read the full interview.)