by Carissa Wolf
They come in nearly every shape and color, yet come January, the beloved salad staple turns a little dull and tastes a lot like cardboard. And we eat them anyway.
The Tomato Independence Project introduced its antidote to our addiction to tasteless tomatoes Jan. 12 with the first in a series of yearlong events aimed to help veggie lovers eat more locally, sustainably and healthily, starting with the humble tomato.
“The idea of focusing on a single food to help people understand the ramifications of eating locally may be the way to go,” said Janie Burns, chair of the Treasure Valley Food Coalition.
The project launched its campaign to “end the tyranny of tasteless tomatoes” with a discussion and exploration of the local tomato at Edwards Greenhouse. Attendees learned that tomato independence not only tastes better but packs an economic punch. Nearly 90 percent of tomatoes that make their way to Treasure Valley tables travel more than 1,500 miles and cost the valley about $15 million per year in lost revenue.
The Tomato Independence Project used its kick-off event to showcase the variety and complexity of tomatoes in their preserved form by doling out flavorful samples of soup, goat cheese spread and bruschetta that starred robust sundried, canned and frozen heirlooms from seasons past. The project’s foodies showcased a simple yet deeply savory soup made with 2011 canned tomatoes that illustrated the staying power of the preserved tomato and the needless deprivation of the tantalizing taste many settle for when they bite into an imported tomato mid-winter.
“We should not accept tasteless tomatoes in January,” Burns said.
The project continues with book discussions, gardening tips and seed swaps throughout the year. To learn more and for a listing of events, visit treasurevalleyfoodcoalition.org.