Ripe: The Search for the Perfect Tomato

Ripe: The Search for the Perfect Tomato

by Arthur Allen
     
 

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As savory as any vegetable, as sweet as its fellow fruits, it inspires a cultlike devotion on all continents. The inimitable, versatile tomato has conquered the cuisines of Spain and Italy, and in America it is our most popular garden delicacy. Arthur Allen understands the spell of the tomato and he’s our guide to its dramatic story.

He begins by describing

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Overview

As savory as any vegetable, as sweet as its fellow fruits, it inspires a cultlike devotion on all continents. The inimitable, versatile tomato has conquered the cuisines of Spain and Italy, and in America it is our most popular garden delicacy. Arthur Allen understands the spell of the tomato and he’s our guide to its dramatic story.

He begins by describing in mouthwatering detail the wonder of a truly delicious tomato, and then introduces the man who prospected for wild tomato genes in South America and made them available to tomato breeders. The story of enslaved Mexican Indians in the Florida tomato fields is followed by the tale of how the Chinese army mastered the art of canning tomatoes. Combining reportage, archival research, and innumerable anecdotes in a lively narrative seen through the lens of today’s global market, here is a story that will resonate from the greenhouse to the dinner table.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Aside from a few mouth-watering odes to its color, shape, and texture, D.C.-based journalist Allen takes a technical approach to tomato appreciation, telling a story primarily about agribusiness through a single popular crop, examining its travels from a seedsman's greenhouse (or lab) to kitchen tables. In accessible but sometimes pedestrian prose, Allen (Villain) meets with many farmers, breeders and canners, examining historical developments and their impacts on various aspects of the industry, for instance the conditions that allowed California to increase its tomato yield from two million tons in 1965 to 11 million tons in 2000. Sections on University of California agriculture professors and vital tomato breeders Jack Hanna and M. Allen Stevens prove educational, as do chapters on field workers in Florida (where the tomato is the number three crop behind oranges and sugar) and on consumers in Italy (as recently as a century ago, most Italians didn't even eat tomatoes). By tackling the topic from the perspectives of business and science, however, Allen engages his readers' heads more than their guts.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A robust tale of how tomatoes get to the table and why some don't taste very good when they get there. For the denizens of the northern portions of the East Coast outside the growing season, writes former AP foreign correspondent Allen, tomatoes mean the round red things grown in Florida. More precisely: "Roughly 85 percent of the areas east of the Mississippi were served by Florida tomatoes in the October-June months, with about the same percentage in the West buying Mexican products." Lucky Westerners: Tomatoes from Mexico still taste something like tomatoes, and a small army of plant scientists and agronomists from all over the world have descended on the country to keep the supply coming. Poor Easterners: Tomatoes grown there are "flawed" save for one thing-they fit a fast-food hamburger bun perfectly, and even if they have no taste, they are big and firm and can be sliced quickly by a machine without being turned to pulp. Implicated in that fast-food maw are issues of food justice, about which Allen writes from an unusual firsthand perspective. He ventured into the fields and picked tomatoes with immigrant workers, coming in with about half their yield owing to his inexperience but netting the same amount of pay, with a champion picker earning about $70 for a load of tomatoes that would likely bring $360 in a grocery store. Not a bad profit for an industry supported by such corporate types as "a mild-mannered flak who produced reassuring explanations for why a socially responsible company like Burger King couldn't pay a bit more for its tomatoes." Ultimately, Allen suggests, the factory system will endure alongside the boutique, heirloom, organic-garden variety of tomato production,with perfection not likely coming from the former. An eye-opener for foodies, consumers and social-justice activists alike.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582437125
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
03/01/2011
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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