Today I had to go grocery shopping. Unfortunately, it was less of a comfort and more of a nuisance this afternoon. I live in a college town and guess who's back from Holiday Break? Right. It was the official first day of classes so naturally everyone has to stock up on beer, frozen pizza, and ramen noodles after their first morning/afternoon session. Add to that the fact that "winter weather" is supposed to fall on our area within the next day or so and there is no bread, milk, or eggs to be seen. You see, for those who don't live in the southern US (specifically South Carolina) we don't often get any kind of winter precipitation. In the event that any of this mysterious icy, white stuff accumulates, hell has surely frozen over. People go absolutely ape-shit (pardon the expression) around here if a meteorologist calls for snow or ice. But I digress. I do have a real point...or rather a rant.
Winter tomatoes. I despise winter tomatoes. I rather enjoy tomatoes when they're in season. A regional favorite during the summer is a tomato sandwich. Fresh, juicy, beefsteak tomatoes on plain ole white bread spread with Duke's mayonnaise. Some people like a little salt and/or pepper as well, but that's all there is to it. (As a side note, my ever so charming boyfriend is probably gagging at this very minute. He doesn't understand the joy of a warm, just picked tomato.) And of course I adore heirloom tomatoes in other dishes or simply dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I would like to point out that like any tride and true culinarian, I do try my best to cook and eat seasonally. But there are times in the fall and winter months when I like a salad or need some tomatoes for tacos.
I've come to expect that my choices for tomatoes this time of year will be poor and slim. Even Florida gets a bit chilly in the winter months. However, I find it absolutely ridiculous that I have to buy tomatoes from Mexico, Canada, or Holland! Mexico I can understand to a point. They've got a good tropical climate in some areas and it's generally warm enough year-round for growing produce. But, seriously...Canada and Holland ?! Neither are the warmest of places in October through about April. And can you imagine just how far a tomato has to travel to get to my local market from Holland? Too damn far! It's so frustrating! I'd much rather pay more for a tomato grown within the US or, perish the thought, locally than from anywhere else. What happened to the hydroponic technologies? Hmm? You can grow more than just lettuce in a nutrient rich sand solution! And excuse me, but I find greenhouses to be wonderful places to grow plants when it's cold outside! They aren't there just for decoration, you know! I also would like to direct your attention to southern California where, according to AccuWeather.com, it's a lovely 72 degrees. One would assume that those are good temperatures for produce.
I could corner the tomato market a produce dozens of varieties in greenhouses all year long. That's it. I've decided that as well as being a world-class chef, I'd like to become a tomato farmer. You might be laughing right now, but I'm serious. The only US tomatoes I can find are extremely pale and mealy. It's saddening, really.
So there it is. My dislike for winter tomatoes and my frustration with foreign produce. Part of my dismay is caused simply by the area I live in. But there are some solutions to poor produce. Hopefully food science technologies are looking at things like this and working on possible solutions. Perhaps I'll do a little research. Hm...
PS You better believe, come April, my tomato seedlings will be in the ground as soon as we have our last frost. There's nothing like a warm, garden fresh tomato that you, yourself, produced.