Thursday, January 19, 2006

vine-ripened

January 11

You know a company's interested in showing you how hygienic its food is when the servers at the breakfast buffet are wearing gloves and masks. Masks!
That's what we got at Agricola EPSA, which specializes in growing, packing and exporting vine-ripened tomatoes. I learned that I had no idea what vine-ripened meant. It doesn't mean the tomatoes are picked when they're all red and juicy. They're picked green, but "ripe" in the sense that they will eventually turn the red color we expect tomatoes to be, and they'll turn that color without being gassed with ethylene or otherwise treated with anything but time.
Some people from DuPont were at EPSA with us, so after breakfast they explained their use of chlorinated water to disinfect the produce, which then was sprayed with sanitized water that was not as chlorinated.
As we visited other farms and packing plants I learned how proud the Mexican packers are of the waxing machines with which they treat their hot-house tomatoes, the high-tech scanners that determine the shape and size of each piece of fruit and instruct the conveyor belts exactly into which line to flick each tomato.
It's all the sort of thing that freaks out many a foodie. But as these technologies were being developed the world didn't enjoy the abundance of food we have now. And most people in the developed world probably would be loath to give up the wide variety of foodstuffs we enjoy. What do you think, dear blog reader? How do we balance the desirability of local stuff bred and grown for flavor rather than ability to ship well with the demand for tomatoes, asparagus etc., year-round, and for cheap food generally?

What I had for breakfast:

Fruit cocktail
Ham and mushroom crêpes
poblano peppers stuffed with (slightly sweet) corn tamal
steak with tomato and chile
tomato with avocado salad
Mexican bean puree — much like the refried beans on which I was raised, but much thinner.
tortillas
cookies and brownies

1 comment:

Ed R said...

We do what we can. If I can a tomato that was ripe when it was picked that morning, of course, I'm going to choose that. But, I'm not going to without fresh tomatoes the rest of the year!