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Real Tomatoes

We're driving into LA next week for our quarterly fix of Sushi Gen, Japanese food & books, & tomatoes. Unfortunately, last trip we couldn't find the tomatoes. Can someone tell me where I can find them? Real, fresh, juicy, sweet, tasty tomatoes,

I'll be eternally grateful,

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  1. At the Beverly Hills farmers market on Sunday mornings, they've got wonderful heirloom tomatoes year-round. They're grown near Bakersfield and are not a well-established farm yet, but the quality is excellent. They are at some other markets, but you sounded like you were only coming for the weekend.

    1. I've frequently seen tomatoes at the Wednesday and Saturday farmers market on Arizona in Santa Monica. Most consider the Wednesday market to be one of the most extensive farmers markets in LA.

      I haven't been in a couple of monthes, but the Sunday Hollywood farmers market adjacent to the Cineramadome has large numbers of boothes selling tomatoes even in January.

      I can't vouch for the quality of tomatoes right now as we are still in April. As the really sweet flavorful ones usually show up in late spring through early fall, it might be a little early still, but this has been a relatively warm year so far. If this is a good omen, watermelons are already available, and they are surprisingly sweet.

      1. I just got some really wonderful cherry tomatoes at Whole Foods last week. As other posters have mentioned, it is still really early for the big ones to get really sweet, but the smaller ones are ready earlier. These little guys are organically grown in southern Baja, and are sweet and bursting with flavor.

        7 Replies
        1. re: OCchowman

          No doubt there's tomatoes that are at least decent out just about all year 'round now. The smaller tomato vines - cherry, berry, grape, even romas - really are prolific as long as they get some minimal love, especially sun and heat. Our compost pile keeps sprouting up volunteers of some smallish variety about the size of those you mention - they form in sweet red clusters of 10-12. We finally wacked the vine back because it was taking over a section of our yard.

          I think the OP might have some luck if she sticks with the smaller varieties or hothouse-grown. Sounds like they enjoy Japanese and are going to J-Town - they might try Mitsuwa in J-Town for some momotaro tomatoes: pink blush, sweet, and lower acid. This tomato was hybridized specifically to meet the tastes of most Japanese - I don't know if the OP's tastes would concur or not...

          1. re: bulavinaka

            I watched a Good Eats show with Alton Brown the other week. Apparently most grocery store tomatoes are picked while green and ripened in a room using a chemical to turn red. Since we live in California and some tomatoes are grown here, not sure if these tomatoes are truly picked off the vine when ripe (vine ripened tomatoes do not specify at what state they have been picked off the vine---possibly way before they've ripened). The only way to really know is to pick from a garden or use Farmer's Markets. Does anybody know if grocery stores here sell tomoatoes using the technique above?

            1. re: groover808

              When I used to work at Von's back in the 70s, my manager told me then that this practice was being done... I don't think the tomatoes are being picked while they're literally green, but these tomatoes (which have been hybridized for transportability/logisitics, not flavor) are picked while still underripe because they hold up better during sorting, packing, and transportion. I think they are gassed with ethylene, the same gas produced as a by-product during the ripening process of other fruits like bananas. You may have heard the helpful hint of putting a ripening peach, avodado, or other fruit in a paper bag along with a banana to accelerate the ripening process. It's the ethylene gas that the banana throws off that helps the other fruits ripen as well.

              With most markets offering organic alternatives, I'd stick with those to start with if you're shopping at a chain, but you owe it to yourself to either grow your own (if practical - or apply for a plot at one of many community gardens), or head to the farmers markets. I'd rather have a great tomato a few times than the stuff at the supers all the time. You can use the conventional stuff for sauces - IMHO, the end result is very acceptable.

                1. re: groover808

                  You might be interested in this little tidbit. I was in Anzen Hardware on First Street in Little Tokyo last week and the owner had lots of seedlings for sale. I asked what they were and he said the seedlings were for cherry, regular and a "Japanese tomato." He told me the Japanese tomatoes were "real sweet." Several other plants too, but since tomatoes are the topic of this thread. That was seven days ago so you might call first.

                  1. re: Feed_me

                    I think Japanese tomatoes are supposed to have less acid than the others.

            2. re: bulavinaka

              Oh, yes, we'd like them. It always surprised me in Japan, that even the half green tomatoes tasted good.
              And don't get me started on the strawberries...

          2. It isn't really tomato season, but the warm winter has meant that hothouse-grown tomatoes are pretty good. Your best bet, as others have said, is farmers' markets -- go to http://www.cafarmersmarkets.com and find the one nearest where you're staying.

            1. Wong Family Farms at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Mkt has really great plum tomatoes and red clusters. Their stand is on 2nd just north of Arizona.

              1. Thursday at the El Segundo farmer's market (just SW of LAX) I bought some really beautiful, full-taste, full-size red tomatoes (not plum tomatoes, not cherry, not grape). The kind I'd have no trouble serving as part of a tomato-basil-mozzarella salad or substantial BLT. Way, way, way, way better than what I've seen in supermarkets lately. (So good that if I were to go seek out better tomatoes, it would be tweaky and some heirloom obsession.)

                1 Reply
                1. re: Cinnamon

                  Thanks everyone. So far it's Sushi Gen for dinner & Daikokuya Ramen for lunch.. Only a few more meals left, & they'll be in San Diego.

                2. As others have said, not really tomato season. I don't think even late spring is so good - I think aproximately Jul to September is when you can get "real tomatoes" in LA. I usually don't even bother eating fresh tomatoes the rest of the year... it's too painful. The rest of the time, I use canned Italian or Italian style tomatoes for most stuff.

                  I love heirloom tomatoes, but I also really love the Evans tomatoes that one of the vendors at the Hollywood farmers market sells. They're italian canning type tomatoes, and they are delicious, though not much to look at. I mostly like to peel and dice them, and mix them with olive oil, basil, salt, and garlic, and throw the whole thing on pasta... great for sauce, too. I love the big meaty heirlooms for eating by themselves, sliced thin with olive oil and herbs / salt / pepper, or for sandwiches... but they're not as good IMO in sauces / cooked dishes.

                  1. Tomatoes aren't yet in season so what you will find now will be a pale imitation of summer tomatoes. Local tomatoes spotted now are grown in greenhouses. Your best bet is either those at the farmer's markets (both I don't think they are worth buying) or Sweet 100s (cherries, usually from Del Cabbo, grown in Mexico, sold at higher end groceries and occasionally TJs).