What has happened to our tomatoes??
I was raised in Windsor, Ontario and I remember the fantastic, ripe, sweet, beefsteak tomatoes we had 20 years ago. Now everything we get which resembles a tomato has a solid, cardboard tasting interior if it has any taste at all. Even the Roma tomatoes in the wintertime which used to be the only respite for tomatofanatics like me are a pale imitation of real tomatoes. We can get them in Europe-why not in Ontario??
Tomatoes sold at retail in North America are bred for shipping. Most are picked hard green and then flooded with ethylene gas to turn them red for sale.These are too awful to even discuss.
Even organic tomatoes and "heritage" varieties that were picked ripe and are sold at the fanciest grocers have this characteristic. Last month I got a box of heritage tomatoes grown by Cookstown Greens (one of the highest end produce growers) and sold at Harvest Wagon (Toronto's most reliable, and most expensive, produce store). Even these had very little taste.
For a few weeks in August and September, some really delicious tomatoes appear at some farmers markets. But you can't ever count on it. Many of the most reliably delicious cherry tomatoes (e.g., sweet 100/sweet one million) are too short lived and fragile to survive the rigours of retail. This year I didn't find any full size tomatoes that were especially good.
As to winter, the Muir Glen brand of canned tomatoes is quite good.
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Try the tomatoes at the fruit and vegetable stand on the west side of Keele just north of Steeles.
I don't know the answer to your question but I can tell you that a month ago, I was at JKWB. Perched on a stool at the kitchen bar, we watched the chef slice tomato after tomato for their salad of tomato with fresh pecorino and basil dressing. They were heirloom tomatoes, grown in Jamie's garden apparently, and each one was more perfect than the one before - you could see how wonderful the colour and texture were. We started our meal with an order and enjoyed the taste so much that we ordered another plate later on. Perfectly simple but truly spectacular.
I got some really tasty field tomatoes at the city hall market last week. I have found this year that the field tomatoes were excellent but the beefsteak and larger heirlooms didn't really make the grade.
Two years ago I met a cab driver who was driving a cab on weekends in Toronto and farming tomatoes during the week. Needless to say I held the poor man captive for a good hour with tomato questions. Bottom line was sun and rainfall, the field tomatoes required less than the larger variety beefsteaks and heirloom which take longer to ripen. I got some excellent Roma tomatoes for canning about the second week of September this year, a taste of summer in February.
Best advice: eat local, eat seasonal. Eat loads of tomatoes NOW, but it pretty much over and the only tomato marginally worthwhile until next August is the grape tomato. I have learned to appreciate the wait and the bounty when it arrives.
I see that you allude both to "field tomatoes" and "beefsteak" tomatoes. In my local shop downtown, "field tomatoes" have been readily available this summer but I've not seen anything called "beefsteak". Would some shops use the same name for both? It's late in the season, I know, but where would I go to find "beefsteak" as opposed to "field" - that is beefsteak which are grown outside and not in a hothouse?
"Beefsteak" tomatoes are the super large ones. They too are "field" tomatoes in that they are grown outdoors, not in a hothouse.
All you can buy at this time of year are hydroponic fruit grown indoors. The quality seems to be a function of distance to market. Essex county hothouse tomatoes can be decent for that reason. The good ones are a deep red, somewhat yielding, and heavy. But no way do they approach summer fruit. The worst ones have that waxy, semi-transparent finish and dry, mealy innards. Avoid anything from overseas or the US. They are what's left in a boxcar travelling north picked god knows when.
I'll be looking for decent tomatoes in Leamington at roadside stands this weekend. But I'll also be visiting the Heinz employee warehouse with relatives for some canned fruit.
Here is an item of interest relating to fresh tomato commerce.
I still dream of the ultimate beefsteak tomato. Here is a picture of what it should look like compared to the regular round field tomatoes.
I am travelling east this weekend and will check all my usual roadside stands and see what pops up. There may be some final gems still out there.
Square tomatoes make me sad.
here, here. I couldn't agree with you more about local produce. I, too, re-discovered the sweet fragrance orbs this year. I found some beautiful cherry tomatoes at the City Hall Market (vendor on the east side). But after spending $10 a week for three weeks this August, I realized the vendor was sliding in some of the rotten ones in between to bulk up his offering. I gave him the benefit of the doubt the first two weeks and after the third week, I decided to stop purchasing his tomatoes. At 3 half pints for $10 - it was too expensive to be throwing away 12+ rotten cherry tomatoes each week. I just went back to the north market at St Lawrence on Saturdays to satisfy my tomato cravings. And as a regular patron of farmer's markets, it is the rare day that I have had to throw away more than a very pieces of produce. It's too bad really. I would have gladly accepted less tomatoes in the half pint versus digging out the rotten ones.
But I digress... I think tomato season has slipped past us for the year. Last week, I did see too much on offer, although the squash and apples are now in full swing.... I took up canning this year and put up several jars of roma tomatoes -yum. It is a great way to savour summer flavours when it is cold and dreary outside.