(Photo courtesy of Fu Man Jew via Flickr)
Well, the country is going through a serious lycopene withdrawal now that millions of tomatoes are being taken off the shelves. It seems that they carry a virulent strain of Salmonella bacteria. Just eating one can have you hurling for hours, similar to what happens after Tyra Banks conducts an interview.
How did the tomatoes become infected in the first place? I have several theories:
•A farmer used tomatoes to massage his pet turtles and iguanas
•A farmer’s wife named Ella cooked salmon with tomatoes
•A worker at the processing plant confused the word “water” with “manure” when cleaning the
tomatoes. Hey, most of us do that.
What can you do to avoid this latest plague? Don’t eat plum, Roma, and beefsteak tomatoes until the FDA, which never errs, tells you the coast is clear. In the meantime, as my colleague, Scott Jones, writes in his highly informative food blog, “Eating My Words,” you could try growing your own tomatoes. It’s easy. Home-grown tomatoes also taste better, because they aren’t picked when they’re green (unless you’re a cretin like Tyra Banks).
Growing Tomatoes – The Basics
1. There are about a zillion different kinds of tomatoes you can try, but before you get that far, figure
how much space you have and how much fruit you want. Tomatoes are either determinate or
indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes (‘Celebrity,’ ‘Floramerica,’ ‘Heatwave,’ ‘La Roma,’ ‘Rutgers’) are
bushy and ripen all their fruit over several weeks. They’re the better choice for containers on your
deck or patio. Indeterminate tomatoes (‘Beefmaster,’ ‘Better Boy,’ ‘Big Boy,’ ‘Supersonic’) are
vinelike and ripen fruit throughout the summer. They grow like crazy, need support, and take up lots
of space. Unless you relish the act of pruning, plant these in the ground.
2. When you buy your plants, look for healthy ones that aren’t root bound and have good, green
foliage. Brush the stems and leaves with your hands. If little white flies take to the air, leave this
plant at the nursery. Whiteflies on tomato plants are a serious pest and very hard to eradicate.
3. Look for the letters V, F, T, N on the label next to the variety name. This tells you this plant resists
wilt diseases, tobacco mosaic virus, and nematodes. Non-resistant plants die from these.
4. Choose a sunny spot with good air circulation. If you’re planting in a container, use as big a pot as
you can stand, at least 14 inches across. The more soil that’s in a container, the bigger the root
system will be. Plus, you won’t have to water so blamed often.
5. Dig a deep hole and plant the tomato plant vertically so that only the top 1 or 2 sets of leaves are
above the soil surface. The plant will root all along the buried stem and tolerate drought better.
6. Good soil is key. It should be moist, fertile, not to acid (pH around 6.5), and contains lots of organic
matter, such as composted manure. If your soil is naturally acid (hydrangeas are blue in your yard),
work a cup of lime into the soil for each plant.
Grumpy’s Favorite Tomato Movies
• Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978)
• Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)
• Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
• Pelt Tyra Banks With Tomatoes (2008)
Most Revolting Beverage Made With Tomatoes
Budweiser Chelada – An incredibly disgusting mixture of beer and clamato juice. If you hate beer, you’ll probably like this. Tyra does.