Tomatoes as a category has grown enormously over the last few years. The main reason for this has been the development of many varieties of delicious snacking tomatoes, usually sold in punnets. At Harris Farm the cost of these punnets alarms us and we are developing sales for the same fruit loose, as we have traditionally sold tomatoes.
The reason these tomatoes have become so popular is not in my view a good one. About fifteen or more years ago we grew our first truss tomatoes in Australia. It was a breath of fresh air to get the first decent eating tomatoes we had seen in a generation. The major supermarkets soon got onto these and demanded that the large wholesalers sell these at a fixed price. We have seen a race to the bottom as the growers are forced to produce a product that fits the price criteria, no different than how a number of other industries such as milk have been ruined by a couple of major buyers controlling most of the market, forcing unorganised small farmers to accept the price the retailers want. In order to survive the growers grow tomatoes based on yield not flavour, a very short sighted view of the whole industry in my view.
The major wholesalers have turned their attention to these absolutely fantastic little sweet snacking tomatoes so they can make a profit and stay in business. Trouble is these tomatoes are dear to grow, pack and handle and so the retail price can be several times that of the truss tomato. The other problem is that they won’t grow when it’s not summer. These tomatoes have been pretty well off the menu for the last three months and those that got to market did not eat all that well. However recent warmer growing conditions mean we are starting to get great eating fruit and at a cheaper price. As the majors try to sort out how to control this industry we will see fantastic opportunities for good eating fruit right through the summer. To maximise the outcome of this our customers will have to effectively eat what is in season that will change from week to week as the different varieties hit their peaks and troughs in the growing cycle.
HOW TO PICK
Look for brightly coloured tomatoes for immediate use, or slightly pale pink tomatoes for future use.
HOW TO STORE
Although we do not encourage refrigerating tomatoes as doing so has the tendency to reduce flavour and ability to ripen well, you may store tomatoes in the crisper for a couple of days once ripe. Bring to room temperature before using.