Guest Post: Agribusiness Tomatoes vs. Fresh Tomatoes

My guest article for today is about consciously choosing the produce we buy, in this case, tomatoes.
Andrew, my guest author, manages a family owned grocery store in center city Philadelphia. The store has been open in one way, shape, or form (though different locations) since 1892. Andrew will be the fifth generation of Kleins taking over the store.

Kleins Supermarket

The current owners are his father Steve and  his two brothers Shel and Ken Klein. Andrew is in the process of transitioning the store into a more local/gourmet/organic type of place in order to compete with Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, which have recently moved into their territory.
Grocers through and through,every Klein man was handed a white apron upon their bar-mitzvah and told the store would always be there for them, if they were interested in being grocers.

Shopping for Tomatoes

What do you look for when you shop for fruit and vegetables? Do you buy according to price, smell, feel, texture, freshness, or aesthetics? Since your choice is probably based on any or all of the above, let’s consider the following about picking out tomatoes.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Take a look at the average tomato on the shelf of your local grocer. Now go try to find a tomato that looks like that growing naturally in the wild. Barbara Kingsolver, in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, argues that tomatoes raised by agribusiness have other priorities in mind.  The tomatoes big business grows are designed to ripen simultaneously and at the same size, for ease of machine harvesting. Trying to get tomatoes which are grown in your own backyard to do this would be like telling a class of students to all go through puberty at the exact same time, while they grow at the exact same pace. It’s just not natural.

 Store bought tomatoes are often bred to have a tough skin to survive rough handling and a long transport (naturally taking away from the taste). They are engineered to withstand chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They are almost always picked early to allow time for transport. And the weirdest part; conventional tomatoes are designed to be roughly square-shaped to fit more tomatoes in the shipping crate. Does the taste and wholesomeness of food even rank anymore on the list of agribusiness’s priorities?

agribusiness tomatoes

 Here is a challenge to you. Go out and buy an heirloom tomato from a local farmers market. Then go buy the squarest tomato you can find on the shelf at the supermarket. Compare the taste, and I’ll bet you never eat a conventional tomato again. 

heirloom tomatoes


Thank you Andrew for the heads up on how agribusiness grows and handles their tomatoes. Since I’m growing organic tomatoes in my backyard right now, I can attest to the fact that they are all different sizes and shapes, and they are ripening at different times.  That’s the natural order of raising tomatoes. All who have eaten local, fresh off the vine ripe tomatoes know that most of the tomatoes in the store taste like cardboard.
If I’m given a choice between a tomato from a grocery store and a local fresh tomato, I know which one I’d choose. How about you?
You can contact Andrew at:

About brendamarroy

blogger, and author
This entry was posted in Awareness, Choices, Consciousness, Food, Guest Blog, Health and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Guest Post: Agribusiness Tomatoes vs. Fresh Tomatoes

  1. I am so glad I shop at the local Farmer’s Market. So much better than the chain stores!

  2. pathwriter says:

    There’s nothing like a home-grown tomato. 🙂

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