Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lack of taste

Tuesday, I was eating grape tomatoes, picked off my own tomato plant. It is really rewarding to have a successful vegetable after so many disappointing years. And they taste good, too... just as good as the store-bought ones.

I remembered all I'd read about home-grown tomatoes. About the extra flavor that vine-ripening gives, how the more delicate varieties for home gardens taste better than the bred-for-storage-and-mass-transportation commercial brands. People are driven to write songs about this wonderful flavor experienced by the successful tomato gardener. I'm not seeing it in my tomatoes.

Perhaps the brand I chose is the culprit. Or perhaps my gardening: my plant had a rough start and took about 80 days to produce its first fruit: much longer than the rated 60 days. It may not be getting all the sun and fertilizer it needs to reach its full flavor potential.

Then again... the people who rave about homegrown tomatoes also rave against refrigerating tomatoes. Not just the homegrown ones, but any tomato. The cold can break down important flavor compounds. They say. But not for me: I have done experiments, and cannot detect any taste difference between refrigerated and non-refrigerated tomatoes. Maybe it's me.

Last summer, my sister came to visit. Our conversation drifted to her college classes. She talked about her food science class, and shared how it had improved her appreciation of flavor. Not as much as her classmates, though: some of the things they could smell, she could not detect. This struck a chord with me. I cannot count the number of times friends, family, and coworkers have complained of a smell I cannot detect. "It must be genetic," I told her. Our sense of smell is sub-par.

Perhaps my poor sense of smell comes with a poor sense of taste. I think this calls for further research. Today, I'm going to a tomato tasting festival. Will they all taste alike to me? Or will I discover what I've been missing? Let the experiment begin!

Update: OK, so the partner's not up to a 3 hour roadtrip this morning. Maybe next year?

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