Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Book Review

I have to start by saying it has been a very very long time since I wrote a book review! I have also learned that I should read the book before I tell anyone I am going to write about it as it seemed to take forever to get it read and the interruptions were more noticeable! Ralph did help by editing and reading  the drafts for me.  Now thats out of the way.......

Thoughts on a Good Read

I have just finished reading “Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture DestroyedOur Most Alluring Fruit” book by Barry Estabrook. It was not quite what I expected but I totally enjoyed it. It is well written and his style is both informative and conversational. To me, this is the kind of book we should find in classrooms. It should be read in homes by young couples who want to raise children. As a matter of course it most certainly should be read by anyone who has ever eaten a supermarket tomato in January!

Chapter three starts with a startling comment and I Quote: “ In Vermont, where I live, as much of the rest of the United States, a gardener can select pretty much any sunny patch of ground, dig a small hole, put in a tomato seedling, and come back two months later and harvest something. Not necessarily a bumper crop of plump unblemished fruits, but something. When I met Monica Ozores-Hampton, a vegetable specialist with the University of Florida I asked her what would happen if I applied the same laissez-faire horticultural practices to a tomato plant in Florida? She shot me a sorrowful, slightly condescending look and replied, “Nothing.” 

I think his approach to the industrial farm aspects of winter tomatoes and the combination of both human and environmental cost this book exposes is the core of what is so wrong with our food supply. Let's face it we laugh with delight at our first fabulous home grown heirloom tomato as we pick it in all its sun ripened splendor...eating them sun-warmed enhances the unique tomatoey taste! This is not the way of the vast majority of Tomatoland tomatoes. 

Then when reading about the migrant farm workers plight, shades of “The Grapes Of Wrath”...a dark world I had no idea existed. This book was published in 2011 so there are signs of slow change in consumer taste-buds but I am afraid this read brings up facts we need to know...the farm worker, the herbicide and pesticide use and the power of large company farms. It also shows glimpses into organic smaller scale tomato farming and the innovation of dedicated market gardeners out there who know tomatoes are not meant to be as hard as a rock and taste like cardboard.

I came away with a wealth of information I needed to know, some that I did not enjoy and of course a glimpse into the marvelous ancestry of tomatoes in general. The actual story is followed by detailed links and sites to visit that follow the research for this book, an excellent resource in itself. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to find out more about the food they eat and how it is grown and the options out there.


  1. It's interesting that you came away with something different than you expected. Sometimes that's a good thing, and sometimes it's not, but either way, you learned something. Thanks, Fiona.


  2. I'm familiar with the book "Silent Spring" which had to do with DDT. I guess there's still a ways to go with agriculture.

    1. Silent Spring was one of the first "Serious" environmental books I ever read. It staggers the mind that we are still dealing with horrendous chemical use and that the use of DDT is being reconsidered. It is also disturbing that farmers spray extreme chemicals with disregard for any living thing....including the people who work in the fields. Thank you for mentioning Silent Spring.