If you had to choose between living without tomatoes between October and May and be surprised anew every Summer by fruit perfectly ripened and bursting with flavor or having tomatoes all year round, the watery and flavorless variety, which way would you go? Apparently, the latter. Sorry my friends, I am on a tomato rant. What is prompting my rage is having recently found out that, not only are we importing tomatoes during the winter months from the usual suspects, Florida and Mexico, but now enormous greenhouses are being built in states like Maine and in Canada to have artificially ripened tomatoes closer to home.
It might sound like a benign enterprise. Don’t be fooled – it’s not. These greenhouses are as large as a medium size city, I kid you not, and as natural light during the winter doesn’t even come close to what is necessary to ripen tomatoes, powerful lights are kept on to simulate sunlight. Not to mention the gas emissions that go into heating these facilities. When all is said and done, even factoring in the rising cost of jet fuel, the carbon emissions that go into flying a tomato from Florida or Mexico are lower than the ones from a tomato artificially grown 10 miles from your local supermarket. Have we all gone mad??
Most of us don’t spend enough of our precious time thinking about where our food comes from and we certainly don’t ask enough questions. My rage mounted when I read that the manager of such a greenhouse described the tomatoes he was growing as a fruit that his mother and grandmother would scarcely approve of but that will make his children happy. It’s not exactly news that we are sacrificing quality, flavor and nutritional content as time goes by but that it’s being done while further contributing to the demise of our planet is a travesty.
Are we so attached to having a slice of flavorless tomato on our burger all year round that we would otherwise stay away? Yes, most of the tomatoes grown in America are for the benefit of the fast food industry. Do we really need to have tomatoes in every salad we make during the winter months, even knowing that their nutritional content is not the same as the one in the tomatoes we can buy at the height of summer?
As long as we mindlessly navigate the aisles of the supermarkets, filling our carts without asking ourselves what is local, what is seasonal or if we really need to have exotic fruit on our table every day, the food industry will keep on taking advantage of our laziness and the ingrained habits they helped us form.
There is so much in our lives we cannot control – what we put inside our body, what we feed our children, our friends and our families is where we can make a difference. A bigger one than we think: our choices as consumers have the power to affect global warming, the obesity epidemic and hence healthcare costs, not to mention quality of life. If you do nothing else, please, at least, ask questions.