Have you ever bought a tomato? Sorry, dumb question. Have you ever really tasted a tomato? Not such a dumb question because most of the time tomatoes are the sideshow. A little garnish for the burger or the salad. And this is probably what’s best for our taste buds, because mass-produced tomatoes, especially the ones from Florida, are simply watered down, grainy versions of the real McCoy. And gas is to blame.
While tomatoes at smaller markets are more likely to be telling the truth, most of the fruit at the large chains are not ripened on the vine. They’re picked under-ripe and gassed. Yep, gassed with ethylene – a plant-based enzyme that turns them red - but doesn’t really do much else. So a) your tomatoes are not really fully ripe, b) are lying to you and c) taste like nothing. But not to fret, that last one we can fix (as for the others, contact your congressional representative).
For the fix – oven drying your tomatoes to concentrate what flavor they do possess - you must first introduce yourself to said oven. “Hello oven, how are you? Have you been lonely this summer while we grilled and ate out at restaurants?” Once you are acquainted, have him heat up to just 200° F.
Then slice up your bland, lying, cheating tomatoes into halves or quarters, drizzle with a nice olive oil and sprinkle with salt and perhaps some fresh thyme or rosemary. You can remove the seeds and jelly if you like, but if there’s any flavor in your tomato that’s where it lives, so I let it be. Then send them in for at least four or five hours. Overnight is really bringing it.
The ones here were roasted for about five hours… and were pretty tasty. Especially mixed into a fresh pasta salad or added to Saturday morning hash (recipe coming soon). And that, my foodie friends, is the honest truth.
Afterthought & Source
I recently read Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook, an in-depth (and quite scary) look at Florida’s tomato industry. If you have ever a) lived in Florida, b) heard of migrant workers or c) eaten a “vine-ripened” tomato, you might find the book worth a read.
- Tomatoes, Roma (plum) recommended, stems removed
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Fresh thyme, parsley, rosemary or tarragon (the sky’s the limit!)
- Preheat your oven to around 200° F.
- Slice tomatoes into halves or quarters. Line slices on a rack placed over a sheet tray (so heat circulates evenly around tomatoes during cooking).
- Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt (you should be able to see the salt granules on the tomatoes). Then scatter your fresh herbs on and around the tomatoes.
- Cook in oven for at least four or five hours, until tomatoes shrink and darken in color. For fully dried tomatoes, cook overnight for seven to eight hours.
- Store dried tomatoes in refrigerator for up to a week.