A few years ago in Romania, I had a tomato salad that reminded me of how tomatoes are supposed to taste. I had forgotten. The tomatoes in my salad had most likely been grown in soil, outdoors – with the benefit of Mediterranean sun and heat – and been harvested only hours or at most days before I had the pleasure of eating them.
At home in Germany and the UK, most of the tomatoes I’d eaten in the years before this experience had come from supermarkets. They’d most likely been grown in greenhouses, without actual soil, but fibrous substitutes. They may have been picked prematurely and ripened “off the vine”. This allows for transport over long distances and for storage, which ripe tomatoes would survive for very long. Whilst there are hundreds of different varieties, the most common ones are not grown for flavour, but even size, shape and looks. The way tomatoes are commercially grown changed slowly over the years, and before I knew it I had forgotten what real tomatoes taste like.