Saturday, March 20, 2010

Forget Moldy Spaghetti Sauce, Grow Your Own Tomatoes This Year

An article last month in the New York Times revealed a case of bribery and corruption that allowed tainted tomato products to be sold for years.  SK Foods, one of the largest tomato processors, sold millions of pounds of moldy or otherwise defective tomato products to more than 55 companies, including Kraft.  Some companies sent the defective tomatoes back, but many more did not and the tomato products ended up on store shelves and in the hands of consumers.
...prosecutors say that for years, SK Foods shipped its customers millions of pounds of bulk tomato paste and puree that fell short of basic quality standards — with falsified documentation to mask the problems. Often that meant mold counts so high the sale should have been prohibited under federal law; at other times it involved breaching specifications in the sales contracts, such as acidity levels or the age of the product.

For the past several years, tomato products were pretty much the only processed foods I was still buying.  Then last year I finally got around to growing my own tomatoes--thirty some odd plants that provided all the tomatoes we needed for a full year.  We made all of our ketchup, sauces, paste, juice, etc plus enjoyed fresh tomatoes at the peak of ripeness and made a batch of sun-dried tomatoes as well.  There's no looking back now.  I can't imagine ever buying a jar of spaghetti sauce at the store again.  Or ketchup--I was never all that partial to ketchup until I made my own.  What a world of difference!  Even though I made more ketchup than we normally would consume in a year, I'm in danger of running out just because it's so amazingly flavorful.

If you're just getting started with gardening, tomatoes are a great place to start.  There's just so much you can do with them and even if you only get a few, they'll be so much better than anything you could buy--you'll be in heaven.  It's about that time to get your seedlings started in most parts of the US--the rule of thumb is 6 weeks before the last frost.  I'll be starting mine on April 1st.  Get yours started and you won't have to worry when you hear reports like the one I linked to up above.

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