Twitter is always teaching me something. Someone that I follow always finds a great article or picture that interests me. I can't get enough of it!
Usually the things I learn are interesting and useful, maybe funny or slightly alarming, but it's rare that I read something that shocks me to the core.
This article about industrial tomatoes by Barry Estabrook from GiltTaste did. It shocked me like reading Skinny Bitch and watching Food, Inc. did. This is the factory farming of vegetables and harmful to all numbers of people. I'm pulling some (okay, a lot) of quotes from the article to share with you so that just in case you don't want to or have time to read it, you still know.
"Of all the fruits and vegetables we eat, none suffers at the hands of factory farming more than a tomato grown in the wintertime fields of Florida."**I would love if you would read this information with an open mind. But if you don't have time or just aren't interested, there is a recipe at the end, so don't miss that!**
You're eating hard unripened tomatoes and paying for juicy ripe ones. Those lovely green tomatoes that you pick off your vines because you just can't wait another day are forced to turn red and then sold like they're the real deal. Fact: they're not going to drip with juice like the ones you wait for from the garden.
"It takes a tough tomato to stand up to the indignity of such industrial scale farming, so most Florida tomatoes are bred for hardness, picked when still firm and green (the merest trace of pink is taboo), and artificially gassed with ethylene in warehouses until they acquire the rosy red skin tones of a ripe tomato."
Why are we wasting so much money on something that tastes nothing like what it should? We don't buy unbaked brown bread and expect it to taste like a bake loaf. Tomatoes are no different.
"Americans bought $5 billion worth of perfectly round, perfectly red, and, in the opinion of many consumers, perfectly tasteless fresh tomatoes in 2009"
All that money for less nutrients and more sodium. What a deal!
"...fresh tomatoes today have 30 percent less vitamin C, 30 percent less thiamin, 19 percent less niacin, and 62 percent less calcium than they did in the 1960s. But the modern tomato does shame its 1960s counterpart in one area: It contains fourteen times as much sodium."
Just in case it wasn't a good enough deal, they're throwing in plenty of herbicides & pesticides for us, too.
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture has found residues of 35 pesticides on tomatoes destined for supermarkets."
"And although Florida's sandy soil makes for great beaches, it is devoid of plant nutrients. To get a successful crop, they pump the sand full of chemical fertilizers and can blast the plants with more than one hundred different herbicides and pesticides, including some of the most toxic in agribusiness's arsenal."
"Florida's tomato fields provide a stark example of what a food system looks like when all elements of sustainability are violated."If we can get past the horrible taste, the money, and the pesticides, then we're hit with the poor treatment of the workers.
"Paid on a "piece" basis for every bushel-sized basket they gather, tomato pickers are lucky to earn 70 dollars on a good day." And apparently, these "good days" are very rare."
The Civil War was centuries ago. Those men fought and died to set things right in this country. We have no right to go back on that because we want a rock hard, tasteless tomato.
"When I asked Molloy if it was safe to assume that a consumer who has eaten a fresh tomato from a grocery store, fast food restaurant, or food-service company in the winter has eaten a fruit picked by the hand of a slave, he corrected my choice of words. "It's not an assumption. It is a fact.""
The Land of the Free.
"I began to see that the Florida tomato industry constitutes a parallel world unto itself, a place where many of the assumptions I had taken for granted about living in the United States are turned on their heads."
Not only do the companies not pay their workers proper wages & subject them to slave labor, but then this...
"Pesticides, so toxic to humans and so bad for the environment that they are banned outright for most crops, are routinely sprayed on virtually every Florida tomato field, and in too many cases, sprayed directly on workers, despite federally mandated periods when fields are supposed to remain empty after chemical application."Change this. Of all the big tough decisions in life, it's easy to decide never to buy a grocery store tomato. Such a simple choice.
It is yours.
"...a real tomato's taste is the distilled essence of sun, warm soil, and fine summer days."
If you made it through all that, thank you for reading! This is something that is important to me and I want to be able to share my thoughts with you openly. I'm sure all this serious talk made you hungry (I am!), so I'm offering you a recipe for a quick sauce, easy to throw together after a day at work, especially when company is coming. It's also great for lunch leftovers throughout the week.
Quick Tomato Veggie Pasta
Serves 6-81 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium patty pan squash, chopped
4 mushrooms, sliced (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 c fresh basil, chopped
6 fresh tomatoes, any variety (I used long johns from our garden)
28 oz. canned crushed tomatoes (either home-canned or organic)
1/4 c ricotta cheese (optional)
1 lb. whole wheat rotelle (spiral) noodles
In a large non-stick pan, cook onions over medium-high heat until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add squash and cook 3-5 minutes more. If using mushrooms, add them now. Once squash starts to become translucent, add garlic, salt, pepper, oregano & basil. Stir to combine and then add fresh tomatoes. Cook until the juices from the tomatoes are bubbly. Add canned tomatoes and let simmer while preparing the noodles according to package directions. Stir occasionally. When noodles are done cooking, stir ricotta cheese, if using, into sauce. Drain noodles, combine with sauce and serve.
*Feel free to add other veggies, too. Eggplant or zucchini would be good substitutes for the squash. Bell peppers or hot peppers would be a great addition. Just throw them in with the onions.