Monday, November 12, 2012

How Do They DO This?

Life is full o' minor mysteries and one of the latest... in my world... is this:



That's a pic of "Tomatoes On the Vine," which come five tomatoes to a package, all fruits attached to a real (formerly) live tomato vine (I've already eaten one from this package).   The fruits are also remarkably uniform in size from package to package.  The produce aisle of my grocery store always has at least 15 to 20 such packages in the tomato section and I'm obsessed with wonder about this phenomenon: how do the growers achieve this level of uniformity in an agricultural product... so much so that each package never seems to vary more than five percent in size?  Add in the fact that said growers HAVE to produce tens of thousands of such packages to reach America's produce aisles during each growing season and the mystery gets that much bigger.  How do they DO this?

Enquiring Minds™ wanna know.

22 comments:

  1. This is one example of millions, why America is so great. You will not see tomatoes like that in the UK, or Spain, believe me.

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  2. The production method is actually quite simple. Vine tomatoes are indeterminate, which means that they do not terminate in flower clusters... the plant will actually keep producing, and keep reallocating its energies to producing new tomatoes as long as you keep harvesting the old ones. When the harvested tomatoes are removed, a new shoot begins to grow a new set, all of which start, and are finished, at the same time. They are selected for size as the hybrid is optimized, so that as ripeness occurs for each set, the sizes are roughly the same, varying by about as much as 10 percent on average. A bush plant in the field grows and is harvested only once (like for ketchup or sauce tomatoes), but an indeterminate plant can be harvested 10 or more times outdoors, and for several seasons if grown in a greenhouse, so one plant can make a LOT of tomatoes.

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    1. Thanks for that, Dan... but I wanna know how YOU knew that. ;-)

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    2. I support the IS component of the research and development arm of Syngenta (Monsanto happens to be one of our main competitors); both in seeds development, and crop protection (chemistry). As an adult, I was glad that even if it was only half-hearted, I DID pay attention in science class back in high-school. I've learned a lot more than that since, as the software we develop has to support our breeders and chemists. Ten years ago, I could not have formulated a decent response to the question, but now I know just enough to be really dangerous! :)

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    3. In re: dangerous. That would be me, too... in most areas. ;-)

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  3. The tomatoes are grown hydroponically in greenhouses year-round, and the "clustering" effect is encouraged by the varietals that are chosen for growing and how the tomatoes are pruned/cropped as they grow.

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  4. Replies
    1. Yup... "Better Living Through Chemistry!"

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  5. "Plastics" was the name of the game of the future in The Graduate, now it's obviously "hydroponics," lol.

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  6. Mine is not to question why...

    I took some of these to the art ladies to paint - never wondering why, but loving the look.

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  7. The vine tomatoes are uniform in size and pretty to look at. They look delicious, but how do they taste? And are they tough skinned? Just curious.

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    1. These things taste the best of any store-bought tomato, IMHO, and the skin's not too tough. That's not sayin' much, of course.

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  8. I don't think we really want to know.

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    1. You might could be right about that.

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  9. What you want to look out for is tomatoes grown in Florida. Do not buy these. End of story.

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    1. Example:

      http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2011/07/21/why-you-should-avoid-mass-produced-tomatoes

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    2. Interesting article. FWIW, the tomatoes I buy are shipped by a Colorado grower. That doesn't necessarily mean they were GROWN there, of course. Living where I do most of the produce I see is grown in Mexico.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask.