Once again, I am dismayed by the lies told and sold to us by the modern agriculture industry. My most recent find is that of “Vine-Ripened Tomatoes”. I did a bit of reading on this subject to verify this lie. What I found was frustrating to say the least.
Commercial tomatoes are typically picked when green. To be clear, they need to be considered “mature green”. This means the tomato has crossed a specific threshold where it will continue to mature, and redden, even after it is picked. If the tomato is picked before it is “mature green”, then it will eventually rot without turning soft and red.
The reason tomatoes are picked when green is that they are much easier to handle – they don’t bruise or break. They will survive being shipped without bruising and splitting. En route, the tomato will eventually turn red. Hopefully, if it is timed right, this occurs just when it is being placed on the grocery store shelf.
There are some reports that tomatoes are gassed with ethylene to speed maturation. This is done with other fruits for sure, but in my quick search, I could not find this happening with tomatoes after they were harvested. I saw quite a bit of information on how to gas tomato plants to speed maturation before they were picked,… while they are in the field or hydroponic set-up, but very little for post-harvest tomato gassing.
Now, if you have bought tomatoes from a conventional grocery store anytime in the last few years, you have a decision to make. Do you choose the individual tomatoes (often labelled hydroponic), or do you choose those five or six bright red tomatoes still on the vine? The individual tomatoes are larger and a little cheaper. The “vine-ripened” tomatoes are a little more expensive, but they are brighter, and they were ripened on the vine… so they must be fresher or taste better or… something. Right?
They are often a different variety, but sometimes they are the exact same variety as the loose tomatoes being sold. There are two significant differences that I can find between the vine-ripened tomatoes and the individially sold tomatoes:
- They are on a vine.
- They are allowed to ripen on the vine before being picked.
This is not meant to be sarcastic. It is the truth. The problem is that what the average consumer believes is meant by “allowed to ripen on the vine” is entirely different than what most commercial producers mean.
I would take this to mean that the tomatoes are allowed to mature until red and ready to eat. Then they are carefully picked and delivered to a local grocer at, or almost at, prime eating ripeness.
The commercial producer monitors his maturing tomato plants. Once the tomatoes have transitioned into Maturation Stage Two according to the United States Department of Agriculture Marketing Service Fruit and Vegetable Divsion, then they can be considered “ripened”, because they have indeed ripened from Stage One to Stage Two.
So, those “vine-ripened” tomatoes are picked with almost, but not quite, entirely green. They are then treated the same as every other commercial tomato, but we pay a bit more for them. Granted, there may be some places and some growers who do indeed harvest their tomatoes at more mature stages, but they are not required to do so. They are not in violation of false marketing. They are not, by point of law, lying to the general public.
Yeah, right! This is a technicality. This is misleading. It is meant to give a perception of something that is not, and that is a lie by my definition. But who am I to make such claims? Let’s see what the Merriam-Webster Dictionary tells us:
Lie intransitive verb
- to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive
- to create a false or misleading impression
Well, that sounds like a lie to me. But you can make your own decision. As for me, I am once again a bit more disillusioned than I was.
Now, to add insult to injury, let me share the results of research done by the University of Florida (published in the Nov 1998 Journal of the American Society for Horticultual Science). The study states that there were no perceived differences in taste, texture, or visual appeal between “mature greens” and “vine-ripened” tomatoes.
This means that for over 15 years, we have PROOF that there is no perceived difference between these two types of tomatoes, yet they still charge more! The old marketing slogan, “Perception is Reality” is at play here, and the marketing is effective. We have fallen for a great name (“vine-ripened”) and have allowed them to feed us something resembling food. But there is a storm brewing on the horizon for these producers. The “uniformed public” are becoming smarter. We have tasted real food again, and we are aware of your secret…
Your tomatoes taste like wet cardboard!
So fight back. Fight against the lies of the modern agricultural industry. Don’t just buy “organic”. Buy local. Or better yet… grow it yourself!
Taste a real, honest, vine-ripened tomato from your own backyard.
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