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  • Writer's picture Sophie Jobin

Review: Tomatoland

Updated: May 25, 2022

Second book of 2020: Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook 🍅📚

Passionate about your food, but never questioned where it came from? Dive into the world of #Tomatoland, which focuses on farmed tomatoes in the United States. Agriculture is taken for granted in this day and age, we don't see much value investing in it.

Why? It got too big too quickly. It's everywhere, so we take it for granted. We have never really asked what it means to produce at this large of scale. It caused not only environmental issues, but labor issues on a scale that is unbelievable and tragic.


Tomato Harvest

Barry explains how food scientist in the 1920s had determined that in order for a tomato to have the taste and texture of a truly delicious tomato, it must stay on the wine to ripen.

Why do we find out store bought tomatoes taste like nothing?

He discovered that Florida tomatoes are harvested when they are still hard and green. Once  harvested, they are gassed with ethylene until it artificially turns red. No tomato artificially ripened would ever have the taste and texture equal to one allowed to ripen naturally. He's basically saying: if you want to know what a real tomato taste like, you’ll have to grow it yourself.

“It should be clearly understood that by no known method of ripening except on the vine can a tomato be produced equal in quality to a tomato fully ripened on the vine.”

Pesticides, Slavery and Injuriousness

When we think about produce, we don’t really think of slavery being involved with it nowadays but there are some hard truths that we need to learn when it comes to our food system.

This book touches base on chemical use, #slavery in the fields in the early 2000s and gross misconduct to employees by beating them, threatening them and providing horrible living conditions for them... all for profit. Truly heartbreaking but it didn’t end there.

“The life expectancy of a migrant worker in the United States is only forty-nine years, about the same as that of a person living in equatorial Africa.”

Small Justice for the Good Guys

Not all is lost, this book shows how people who come together can work to make BIG changes in the world. The workers overcome harsh conditions by forming a coalition and unite people together to let big companies know how unjust the system truly is. It did take over 17 years but nothing ever happens over night.

It’s certainly a good read, well laid out, easy to follow and information that is relevant without going overboard.

I highly recommend it. I bought mine off of Amazon

Thank you @joegardener for the recommendation. I will never look at a tomato the same way again.

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