too many words by laura lemay


Tomatoes in winter are a really horrible thing. The only available tomatoes come from warm areas like Florida and Mexico, and in order to survive the shipping they’re picked green and then shot with ethylene gas to ripen them. They don’t *get* ripe, though; they redden and soften a little but they have the consistency of styrofoam packing and much of the same kind of taste. Gas-ripened tomatoes are not even food. They are tomato-shaped space pellets. Evil.

So this guy in Florida has bred a tomato that he can grow in the winter and ship around the country. It doesn’t require gas-ripening and it tastes like an heirloom, like a tomato is supposed to taste. It has to be packed specially because its softer than normal florida winter tomatoes, but because it tastes so good he can charge a lot for it. The one drawback: its pretty ugly. So following one of the primary laws of marketing he calls it the uglyripe.

Well, there’s a problem. Apparently the Florida Tomato Commitee, a marketing association, has a rule that says that all Florida styrofoam space pellets have to look absolutely perfect. So they’re preventing him from selling the uglyripe at all. So he’s suing.

The committee says that the uglyripe will wreck the reputation of Florida tomatoes. The farmer says the Tomato Committee doesn’t want him to sell the uglyripe because its too much of a success and its a threat to other growers.

Agricultural marketing associations have a lot of power in this country over what sort of produce actually gets shipped to supermarkets. It is likely that the uglyripe guy will lose his case, and we’ll have to wait until May for a decent tomato.

Background: It’s a fight in Florida, and it’s ugly

(I got it from MetaFilter.)