Posted by Book Mavens on September 15th, 2011
Title: Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit
Author: Barry Estabrook
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing, June 2011
Summary: As an avid home cook, with a bent toward vegetarian and Italian food, this book was a real eye-opener about the principle ingredient in many of my dishes: the tomato.
Barry Estabrook researches the subject with a reporter’s eye as he travels the southern United States, particularly southern Florida, investigating exactly how corporate agribusiness (I’m am NOT saying that they are a Great Satan by any means, as corporate farms produce an enormous amount of food at very reasonable prices) has taken over the “slicing” tomato, as opposed to the canned or juice tomato, business in the United States. He explains that the genetic background of the tomato is actually an arid-landscape, don’t-water-me-too-much plant, which could not be further out of its element than in South Florida, where there is sandy soil and far too much humidity for the fruit we remember as a vine-ripened tomato. There are some bright spots in his research, such as organic and small scale farmers who grow a dizzying variety of tomatoes, only in season and only harvested at their peak of perfect ripeness.
Just as in Fast Food Nation and classics like The Jungle, the inhuman conditions, abject poverty and actual slavery, in the U.S. tomato picking and farming industry is graphically exposed.
He goes on to describe the extensive chemical fertilizer and pesticide use which is required to create the unnatural per-acre yield required to farm tomatoes in such a concentrated fashion. He concludes that the exalted culinary position of the slicing tomato, that jewel of almost every home gardener and farmer’s market, has largely been co-opted by a rock-hard, chemically-and-genetically-altered, unnaturally inexpensive commodity that can be produced in soil not at all conducive to its growth, shipped in its greenest, hardest state without so much as a bruise, gassed with ethylene to force at least a pale pink or orange hue and sold to fast food chains and in your local supermarket all year long at very low prices, as long as you don’t care what it looks like, tastes like, and don’t bother to check its all-but-non-existent nutritional value.
Who Might Like This?: Anyone interested in cooking, eating, or feeding others.
Recommended by: Mark Z., Guest Reviewer
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