Monday, September 17, 2012

Organic v Conventional Tomatoes: Scrutiny of Taste

            An article recently published in Annals of Internal Medicine aimed to clarify the old argument of nutrient values and health risks in organic vs. conventional foods. Their findings suggest that organic is not in fact ‘healthier’ or ‘more nutrient dense’ than conventionally grown foods and that there is really no significant evidence to support the claim of organic=health. While this may be true, it certainly doesn’t speak to the issue of GMO’s and how they effect us in the long term, pesticides and how they effect us in the long term, conditions of the animals and/or human laborers that are involved in the production of this food, the great distances at which this produce travels and its effect on the environment, and what would appear to be the issue closest to the consumers heart, taste.
            There is something about a homegrown tomato that is distinctly different from a conventionally grown one. Not just in the size or feel or shape, but in flavor. Maybe I’m pushing it a little here, but there is warmth inherent to organic tomatoes, a sweeter quality, a delicate, dirt-y fragrance that just isn’t there in a conventionally grown one. Maybe that’s why they’re trying to coerce the current mammoth tomato monopolizing the market into tasting better.
            There is, of course, conflicting opinions on The Great Organic V. Conventional Debate. A study done in March of 2012 at the University of Barcelona shows that organic tomatoes contain a statistically significant higher amount of phenolic compounds (compounds that have been implicated in preventing cardiovascular disease and certain cancers) than conventional tomatoes.  Perhaps the issue is the hearty-ness of the fruit or vegetable being changed. Tomatoes seem to me a more delicate fruit than say, a watermelon or an apple. And for that reason, are perhaps more prone to nutrient shifts.  But, back onto the heart of the issue, is there a difference in taste? If a group of people of varying genders and similar ages were to, say, be blind folded at 11:30 at night and have two slices of tomatoes placed in their hands to eat, would they be able to taste the difference? Fortunately, we here at Obvious Experiments Laboratory were able to suss this issue out for the American Public once and for all.


An Experiment About Which Tomatoes Taste Better:
Conclusion Arrived Upon Using Science

Methods and Materials:
1.     Buy conventionally grown tomatoes (Roma) from local super market chain, Winco, and organically grown tomatoes (not Roma, heirloom round-ish ones) from Moscow Farmer’s Market.
2.     Take them home and wash them.
3.     Wait in your apartment until night falls.
4.     Find a group of young people hanging around in your backyard and casually invite them onto your porch to be blindfolded (1 wooly scarf, 1 tie, 2 silk scarves of varying color and pattern, and 1 knit cap were used) and fed
5.     Slice tomatoes and place on two plates of similar color and proportion
6.     Blind fold anyone standing on porch
7.     Have young ones hold out their hands and place a tomato slice on each of their palms
8.     Direct them to eat
9.     Place a second tomato in the center of their now, slightly juice filled and outstretched palms
10. Stop them from eating it before your cue
11. Direct them to eat
12. Direct one of them to perform steps 5 through 9 on you
13. Ask both the group and yourself, “which one was organic?”
14. Allow them to answer only in unison

            Every one of them (including myself) was able to identify the organic tomato.

Some pertinent comment’s included:

“It [the organic tomato] was sweeter.”
“The organic tomato was softer.”
“The first one [conventional tomato] tasted like butt.”

It should also be noted that when the left over slices were offered as compensation for participation in the experiment, only the organic tomato slices were taken.


There would appear to be a distinct difference in flavor between organic and conventionally grown tomatoes.