Monday, August 12, 2013

I Choose Ugly!

Last Friday I went on a double date with some friends and saw 'Ugly Tomatoes' on the menu.

That's not a good marketing move, someone commented. And we didn't order them. Awfully superficial of us, in hindsight.

But after doing some reading on ugly tomatoes this weekend, I wish we had tried the dish, though now I have a good excuse to go back!

UGLY tomatoes are just that. They are ugly - from the grocery store and marketing standpoint.

Ugly tomatoes are not the perfectly round, perfectly red specimens that you can find in almost every grocery store. They are not smooth; they often have fluting and they might have cracks. So long as the flutes and cracks haven't allowed rotting, they are perfectly fine to eat. They are not bright red all over; they have color variations, including flecking, zebraing, and more. One more thing that they are not - and this is the most important point - they are not tasteless.

To get those Christmas ornament-looking tomatoes - all red and glossy - growers and farmers have been choosing seeds with a gene mutation that makes their crop ripen uniformly. By changing the amount of chlorophyll in the tomato, farmers have been able to breed for uniformly red and perfectly round harvests. However, this gene doesn't just change the tomatoes' look—it also alters the ripening process by reducing both sugar and the "tomato-y taste." Yuck.

I realize that by buying my tomatoes at the farmers' markets and through local farms' CSA boxes, I've been cooking and eating ugly tomatoes for years. I have always gravitated to those oddball tomatoes - not because they are ugly, but because they just taste better. But now I'm ready to shout it from the rooftops: I choose ugly!

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