A Vox journalist interviews food farmers, experts, and chefs to determine if Nonna’s spaghetti sauce was indeed tastier in Italy than in the United States.
Why does European cuisine appear to taste better? Is it because we North Americans are typically on vacation when we visit and idealize our gastronomic experiences? Or are the ingredients really better than what we receive at home?
After eating a meal of spaghetti al pomodoro that transformed her life, Julia Belluz of Vox decided to investigate: “The tomatoes had the correct ratio of sweetness to acidity, tasting nothing like the watery food I was accustomed to in North America.” Belluz embarked on a research journey throughout the United States that included food growers, flavor experts, and chefs, and wrote an article called “Why fruits and vegetables taste better in Europe.”
Differences in Produce Production
It turns out that there’s nothing different about the soil in North America. We are capable of producing food that is as tasty as that produced in Europe. It’s simply that we don’t want to. It all boils down to cultural and personal preferences.
Taste reigns supreme in Italy, France, and other countries of Europe. Since it is what clients want, it is the most crucial component in raising and selling food. They have higher expectations and would not accept a huge mealy tomato in the middle of January; instead, they would wait for smaller, juicier, more delicious tomatoes in the appropriate season.
North American growers, on the other hand, have reacted to decades of pressure to produce larger, heavier fruits and vegetables with consistent look. Consumers want their food all year, even if it is out of season, and they want to spend the least amount of money. Selecting bigger tomatoes, for example, is less expensive for the producer since it requires less time and work to produce more output.
The Look and Size of Produce
Harry Klee is a Florida tomato producer who created the Garden Gem, a delicious, nutrient-rich tomato that will never be marketed in the United States because it is too tiny. He told Belluz:
“With industrial tomatoes, the bottom line is that tomatoes have been developed for yield, output, and disease resistance. Growers are not compensated for taste; rather, they are compensated for yield. So the breeders gave them this thing that produces a lot of fruit but has no taste.”
When ripe, most supermarket tomatoes in North America have a genetic mutation that causes them to be spherical, smooth, and rich crimson red. The only problem is that this widely-embraced mutation deactivates a gene that produces the sugars and aromas that are essential for a flavorful tomato.
“When researchers ‘turned on’ the dormant gene, the fruit contained 20 percent more sugar and 20 to 30 percent more carotenoids when mature – although its non-uniform hue and greenish pallor indicate that conventional breeders will not be following suit. Now we’re left with lovely tomatoes that taste like a pale imitation of their former self.” (TreeHugger)
It seems that we may learn from Europe’s approach to production. When more individuals show desire to purchase unusually shaped fruits and vegetables, stores should react by stocking smaller-than-usual produce with better taste. However, European-tasting vegetables from small-scale farms may be found at farmers’ markets and CSA shares.
Are tomatoes better in Europe?
I’d do it more often back home in North America, but it’s not the same experience. Tomatoes in the United States just do not have the same taste as those in Europe. Everybody who has tasted European tomatoes will tell you the same thing: they are wonderful.
Was tomatoes introduced to Europe or America?
1521. The cultivated tomato was first seen by Europeans in Mesoamerica, where it was an important element of the Nahua diet and culture. With Hernán Cortés’ conquering of Tenochtitlan in 1521, the Spanish conquistadores brought the tomato to Europe.
Did Europe have tomatoes before discovering America?
Although we typically identify the tomato with Italy, the fruit originated in South America rather than Europe. The first tomatoes were brought to Europe from what is today Peru by Spanish conquistadors, where it was being called tomatl, an Aztec word that is a very clear influence for the word tomato.
When did tomatoes become popular in Europe?
With the birth of the pizza in Naples about 1880, the tomato gained great appeal throughout Europe.