Editor's note: The Science Seat is a feature in which CNN Light Years sits down with movers and shakers from many different areas of scientific exploration. This is the fourth installment.
Ever wondered why some tomatoes taste great, and many others don’t?
Professor Harry Klee, a horticulturalist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, is on a mission to improve the taste and quality of supermarket tomatoes. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2012 for his efforts.
Klee presented his research in Boston recently at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting. CNN Light Years spoke with Klee before the conference.
Read the full interview here: Science Seat: In search of the perfect tomato
Vegetarians are (mostly) not here just to ruin your good time. Really. I swear. I was one, myself for seven years and all I wanted at a cookout was to hang out with my friends, and not have to worry that the omnivores would gobble up all the meat-free sides before I got to the table.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to celebrate the bounty of the season and make sure all my guests leave full and satisfied - no matter how they choose to chow down.
Ashley Strickland is an associate producer with CNN.com. She likes twisting her own soft pretzels, perfecting pineapple upside down cake, tackling English toffee, sharing people-pleasin' pizza dip, sunflower cheesecakes and green soup and cajoling recipes from athletes.
Each year, I can tell by the languor of the tomato vines in our backyard that it’s time. They recline like some exhausted 1940s Hollywood starlet, even though we’ve already relieved them of their burden.
The kitchen countertops become laden with fiery red, homegrown tomatoes. Garlic, onions and bell peppers appear in the kitchen in bulk, while fresh herbs disappear from the garden and local grocery store and take up pungent residence in the refrigerator.
Add a quartet of the largest stock pots to the stovetop, and the ritual has begun. It’s time to capture the last sunset of summer in a jar.
For a response from the industry, read Why tomatoes grow in Florida
In the sultry summer heat, there are few flavors more welcome than that of a burstingly fresh, sloppy, sweet, tangy, locally grown tomato. In the winter, though, their grocery store equivalent is barely recognizable as the same fruit. They're hard, uniformly round and almost inevitably taste-free.
They're also mostly trucked in from Florida, where they're grown in some challenging agricultural conditions, and where the industry has come under scrutiny for their labor practices.
Barry Estabrook, author of 'Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit' spoke with Eatocracy about this came to be.
Eatocracy: How did you become invested in telling the story of the modern day tomato?
Estabrook: I became interested in tomatoes when I was in fact attacked by a group of tomatoes. I was driving down an interstate highway in Southwestern Florida and come up behind what I thought at first was a gravel truck. As I got closer, I saw what I took for Granny Smith apples - and I thought, "Those don't grow in Florida." When I got really close, I saw it was full of bright green tomatoes. No pink - just green.
I was mesmerized, and then the truck hit a bump. Three tomatoes came flying off and nearly went through my windshield. I noticed that they hit the pavement on I-75, bounced and then rolled into the ditch.
They didn't shatter, they didn't splatter; they stayed intact. I thought, "My God! What have they done to this wonderful fruit?"
Author Barry Estabrook's book 'Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit' addresses some concerns over the conditions in which modern day tomatoes are harvested, and takes direct aim at the quality of the Florida-produced product.
We spoke with the Florida Tomato Committee's manager Reggie Brown to get his side of this complex story.
Eatocracy: In his book 'Tomatoland,' Barry Estabrook describes climate conditions in Florida that don’t seem to be conducive to growing tomatoes. What went into the decision to grow tomatoes in Florida?
Reggie Brown: We grow tomatoes in Florida because it is a viable business. Florida is the only place in the continental United States where we can produce tomatoes for many months of the year, and because of the fact that we like producing tomatoes and providing American jobs for Americans in America.
Just when you think you know someone. During a car trip with my husband last weekend, I discovered that the man I have shared my heart, my life and my soul with for over six and a half years had never in his life eaten a BLT sandwich.
How a man gets to his mid-40s without ever having partaken in this American staple, I just couldn't quite wrap my head around. I asked him to repeat what he'd just said, and then I quizzed him. "You're an alien, right? Maybe a spy of some sort sent to infiltrate CNN? By law, you have to tell me - I think."
Scorpacciata is a term that means consuming large amounts of a particular local ingredient while it's in season. It's a good way to eat. Let Mario Batali pronounce it for you.
You're clicking around on the internet, so you're probably not eating a Caprese salad right now. That's too bad. Let's fix it.
Yes, it's summertime and plenty of fresh vegetables are in season and surely salad-worthy. Fine. No one ever said a grown man or woman couldn't have two (2) separate and unrelated salads at a meal. Just make sure one of them doesn't have any basil, mozzarella or tomatoes in it, because you'll need all of that for this dish.
Apropos of our post on the Tomato and Mayonnaise Sandwich - A.K.A. The Finest Sandwich in the Known Universe, we present some passages from Louise Fitzhugh's 1964 'Harriet the Spy'.
Scorpacciata is a term that means consuming large amounts of a particular local ingredient while it's in season. It's a good way to eat. Here's how to pronounce it.
A tomato and mayonnaise sandwich on store-bought white bread is the finest sandwich known to mankind.
This is not up for debate, and the ingredients are not negotiable. Salt and pepper are permissible, but if you try to get schmancier than that, you'll screw it all up, and your sandwich should be taken away from you until you learn to properly appreciate the simple perfection of this combination.
You will not have the opportunity to eat one between, say, mid-September and the beginning of next August, so it's best that you consume them as frequently as humanly possible while tomatoes are in season. One a day would not be overkill and you and your physician should just devise a plan for counteracting any potential over-mayonnaising you may encounter during this period of your gastronomic life.