Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit

Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit

by Barry Estabrook


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781449401092
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication date: 06/07/2011
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 9.00(w) x 6.32(h) x 0.95(d)
Lexile: 1280L (what's this?)

About the Author

James Beard Award-winning journalist Barry Estabrook was a contributing editor at Gourmet magazine for eight years, writing investigative articles about where food comes from. He was the founding editor of Eating Well magazine and has written for the New York Times Magazine, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, Audubon, and the Washington Post, and contributes regularly to The Atlantic Monthly's website. His work has been anthologized in the Best American Food Writing series, and he has been interviewed on numerous television and radio shows. He lives and grows tomatoes in his garden in Vermont.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: On the Tomato Trail ix

Roots 1

A Tomato Grows in Florida 19

Chemical Warfare 35

From the Hands of a Slave 73

An Unfair Fight 97

A Penny per Pound 121

Matters of Taste 139

Building a Better Tomato 153

Tomatoman 175

Epilogue: Wild Things 191

Notes 194

Bibliography 205

Index 207

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"[A] thought-provoking book." —-Publishers Weekly

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Tomatoland 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
kattrox More than 1 year ago
This is the one book that I have thought alot about after reading when shopping for tomatoes at my local store. From why are the tomatoes tasteless yet red in the middle of winter, why are they very firm and do not bruise no matter how long I keep them on my counter after purchasing, to why organic is important when selecting tomatoes? This book covers that and so much more. Kept my interest from the start to the end. It contains the history of where the tomato originated and our forefathers who bred them to what they are today. The unfortunate slavery of migrant workers is a sad reality and what they endure day to day is unspeakable. The book flowed well and I felt as if I too were on the journey with the author discovering and learning. This book is informative and eyeopening and will make you think twice before buying just any tomato at the store. I highly recommend this book not only for its educational value but for the straightforward and truthful manner in which the book is presented. Very entertaining and well written. Thanks to Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing this ARC copy for me for my review.
MadisonFarmer More than 1 year ago
Anyone who has ever eaten a tomato must read this book. A fascinating account of the history of the tomato, the Florida tomato industry, and the lives of the workers who toil to bring us these delightful fruits. At times almost unbearably painful in the descriptions of the conditions and treatment of the farm workers; ultimately, great hope for the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Will never look at a tomato the same. Learned about it from every aspect; somehow that's more interesting than I thought it would be
CookforGood More than 1 year ago
Much of the book tells the story promised by the subtitle: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed our Most Alluring Fruit. You'll learn why "salad tomatoes" feel and taste like tennis balls: gassed from green to greenish-red without developing any unwanted softness or character. You'll learn why the big growers in Florida don't care about taste: it's too hard to breed for and anyway, taste happens after the sale, so who cares? More importantly and grippingly, Estabrook described the forced servitude-the slavery-that the tomato pickers endure. Slavery is not too strong a term when shackles, shotguns, and brutal beatings keep unwilling workers on the job. Other "incentives" for working including manufactured and inescapable debts and threats to the workers' families and co-workers. But if Tomatoland were all gloom and despair, I wouldn't be urging you to read it. Estabrook also introduces you to a wide range of people trying to create decent conditions for the workers, better environmental practices, and yes even tasty tomatoes. Read moving interviews with day-care operators, lawyers, housing developers, tomato breeders, and sustainable farmers. Tomatoland's David-and-Goliath vignettes make it a page turner, complete with spies and prison breaks. These sections not only offer hope and a few laughs. They also suggest ways to vote with your fork against slavery and poison and for human dignity and fragrant, heavy, truly ripe tomatoes. Who should read Tomatoland? Everyone who eats. Everyone who cares about babies, social justice, immigration, the environment, or good food.
Daniel Evans More than 1 year ago
A very nice read about the history of the tomato and the industry that produces the cardboard tasting slave grown grocery store variety.
NJMetal More than 1 year ago
During the opening of the food documentary, Food, Inc Michael Pollan refers to the tomatoes we buy in the supermarket as only "an idea of a tomato." I had been left perplexed by what exactly he meant by that. Barry Estabrook's TOMATOLAND answers that question. Why do tomatoes no longer taste like tomatoes? The book revolves mainly around the winter crops picked in Florida. Those tomatoes you can buy in mid-January that are red and blemish-free and harder then granite. Estabrook delves into why the tomatoes we buy are unnaturaly hard and round and flavorless. Additionally the labor that goes into getting those tomatoes to market is also an interegral part of the story. While the brunt of the story revolves around the winter tomato, hydroponics from Canada and various organics and native and heirloom breeds are touched on as well. TOMATOLAND won't answer every question you have about tomatoes. It will shed some light on important ones you may/should have after eating one from a supermarket. This book is not for foodies or gormets, this is for anyone who eats. Educate yourself and vote with your forks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gourmet food investigative journalist did a wonderful job with his "Tomatoland." It is well written and full of a lof of information about tomatoes--origination, transport, farming, pesticides, horrid labor practices in Florida (slavery), and more. Even his introduction is quite interesting. What I also found odd was the origin, as he writes ithat tomatoes originated in the Andean foothills of Peru and Ecuador, yet it was the Mayans that cultivated it, but did that around 1,000 miles from origination, causing a "bottleneck," resulting in an inbred spoecies (Roots chapter, pp. 1-18). This is odd since the Mayans were known to have elaborate botanical gardens. Estabrooks also writes that no writings could be found in Mayan civilization depicting the tomato. Was the tomato so sacred to the Mayan? Were its origins kept hidden, a secret by the Mayan? This book mentions oddities from the beginning to the end. California and Florida are not mentioned as such a great environmentally-friendly food farming places either as they accepted one of the most worst perticides to use. There are some nice parts such as the successful organic farming of tomatoes by a few farmers in Pennsylvania and Florida. However, most of Tomatoland reveals low standards of large farm labor practices in Florida--of course, also resulting in the tasteless tomato often found in supermarkets. Other interersting foody books: "Where are Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov's Quest to End Famine" by Gary Paul Nabhan (Island Press, 2009); and "The True History of Chocolate," By Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe (Thames and Hudson, 1996 London).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author captures the exact flavor of the tomatoes coming from florida that end up mostly in food service but also on the shelves of retailers. This is why the bulk of the winter tomatoes now come from greenhouses in the southern parts of the US, some Canadian and Mexico. Greenhouse grown with flavor and no pesticides to worry about.
Copperskye on LibraryThing 17 days ago
¿An acre of Florida tomatoes gets hit with five times as much fungicide and six times as much pesticide as an acre of California tomatoes.¿The factory farming of tomatoes in Florida is quite a horror story. Fertilizer, pesticides, fungicides, low wages, servitude, birth defects. It¿s all there in what is truly a race to the bottom. Agribusiness has really screwed up the tomato.I never realized that the lack of taste in those off-season tomatoes from Florida was more or less deliberate. It¿s not how the tomatoes taste that¿s important, it¿s about how they look on the grocery shelf after transport and so taste is no longer factored into the tomato gene pool. In fact, good tasting tomatoes that might be misshapen or bruised or in other ways not esthetically pleasing are not even shipped. Yield, size and appearance are all that matters. And people just keep buying them. There¿s a lot of pain and suffering involved in getting a terrible tasting product on the grocery store shelves. I rarely buy winter tomatoes but that will now be never. I don¿t want them on my restaurant salads, either.The book ends on an optimistic note, though. Labor attorneys and farm worker advocates have helped to make some of the workers lives more livable. Smaller niche farmers on the east coast are able support their farms by supplying high-end restaurants and farmers markets with quality tomatoes.This was an engaging, eye-opening read and good for anyone with an interest in learning where their food comes from.
jclyde on LibraryThing 17 days ago
This book is like The Jungle for tomatoes. Remember that time you saw the documentary/read the book/heard from your socially conscious mother about the plight of factory farm chickens? This book will make you think of tomatoes in the same way. Before reading it, I was content in the belief that farmworkers in post-Chavez America are not sprayed with pesticides in the fields or imprisoned in storage sheds and used as slaves. Now I know that just a few short years ago, farm working mothers were having babies with no limbs and undocumented immigrants were being beaten for running away from farms. The take-away from all this? Not only are those out-of-season beefsteak wannabes from Florida flavorless and pulpy, they¿re grown under inhumane conditions. Up with farmer¿s markets and ugly heirlooms! The downside of this book is that the chapters are not consistent in their approach to the topic ¿ some describe human rights abuses, some history, some personalities related to the tomato farming industry. It made the read a bit choppy, although still interesting.
GlennBell on LibraryThing 17 days ago
Tomatoland is a fairly thorough examination of tomato farming in Florida. Barry covers how it is that the tomato industry has generated fairly tasteless tomatoes, the plight of the migrant farmer, the problems with insectisides, the control of the tomato industry over the shape and color of tomatoes, and recent improvements in tomato farming. I found the information provided interesting. I will likely try to find tomatoes from local growers. I mildly recommend the book. What was told could have been more efficiently presented.
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