Many Californians swear by the "superior" flavor of home-grown, farmers market or roadside stand tomatoes. UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops specialist Tim Hartz says consumers may wish to give grocery store fruit another chance, according to the Associated Press.
“For the life of me I don’t understand all the consternation that some people have about the quality of the tomatoes at the supermarket," Hartz was quoted. “What you can buy at the supermarket now is probably superior to the choices that you had 15 to 20 years ago."
Winter tomatoes aren’t the best, he agrees. Even a greenhouse tomato, once out of the greenhouse, may be exposed to cold that will impinge on taste.
It's tough to find praise about supermarket tomatoes, but there is no shortage of articles that wax lyrical about fresh tomatoes discovered in the garden or purchased directly from a grower.
- In August, writes LA Weekly blogger Felicia Friesema, tomatoes grown in the sun and open air "get a bit outlandish, colorful, and yes, more scrumptious."
- A Fresno Bee story quotes a consumer who favors an heirloom variety called "pineapple." "It is just so juicy. And it is just bursting with flavor."
- Commercial hybrids have a thicker skin so that they are more resistant to bugs and can be bumped and tossed in their processing without bruising, says a blog on HubPages. The plants mature their fruit at the same rate so that they can all be harvested at the same time. They are picked green so that they can be shipped long distances. They are all the same size and color for product reliability and so that they fit consistently in sorting machines.
Who to believe? Perhaps the best solution is trying different sources of tomatoes for yourself. I prefer the heirloom tomatoes that a neighbor grows organically and sells from a little stand on her front lawn. In the winter, I try to do without.