tomatoes in basketIf you’ve ever joined me for one of my cooking classes here in Savannah or elsewhere, no doubt you’ve probably heard one of my tirades about the taste (or rather the lack thereof) of grocery store tomatoes.  If you haven’t heard my “lecture”, here’s the point:  Tomatoes WILL NOT RIPEN once they’ve been picked.  Sure, I know you’ve set them on the countertop  or the windowsill until they turned red and softened.  That my friends is called decomposition, not ripening.  The reason most grocery store tomatoes have not taste is because they are picked green.Green Tomato

When I first moved to Florida I tried planting tomatoes in April which is when I planted them out in California.  Due to the poor soil and the fact I just wanted a few plants I took a cue from my mother who used to grow hers in 5 gallon nursery buckets.  They began to take off, growing quickly and starting to produce flowers.  By early to mid June I had harvested one or two small ripe tomatoes but despite the fact they were flowering like crazy, nothing else was happening.  After bringing my issue to a Disney horticulturalist that worked with me at the Disney Institute, he showed me the error of my ways…basically cultivating plants in Florida is contrary to the way it’s done anyplace else!   The plants were blooming but because the evening temperatures didn’t cool off enough, the flowers were sterile.  I needed to plant my tomatoes in October instead of April which is the end of the growing season!  Well, I can’t say that I ever really acquired the habit of planting vegetables in the opposite season and my tomato harvest was limited to those first and only two tomatoes.  Now that I’m living near Savannah, GA I haven’t fared much better because I now back up to a wooded area where deer like to graze on anything young, tender and enticing.

A new book called “Tomatoland” written by Barry Estabrook has recently come out.   According to this article from the author and featured on, it focuses on the insane growing conditions and the difficulty with which tomatoes are grown in Florida.  While most other areas of the country have soil much more beneficial, Florida boasts that milder climate allowing production even when most areas are blanketed by snow.  “Tomatoland” definitely sounds to be a interesting and enlightening read!

Final thought:  Enjoy your homegrown, farmer’s market, and locally grown tomatoes now during the summer and wait again until next summer.  Enjoy your fruits and vegetables in season and they’ll always taste better!

One Comment on “Tomatoland”

  1. Well said. There is nothing sweeter than a tomato eaten fresh out of the garden. I’ve ranted about this on occasion- enough that I’m afraid my friends are sick of hearing it.

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