My friend – the earwig

Let me start with tomatoes. My home grown tomatoes have thin skins and flesh as dense and true  as wild meat. I have red, orange and pinkish heritage type with a variety of wonderful favours. But we have a short growing season and my toms are just about finished, which is why my wife bought some supermarket tomatoes.

I ate half of one.

Terrible, thick skin, thick core, no flavour.

Before deciding there and then to become a seasonal tomato eater, I contacted an old friend who was a commercial grower in Hawkes Bay for many years. I asked him if our tomatoes had gone the way of American toms; swamped with chemicals, picked green and gassed red.

Here’s his answer: “The tomatoes you buy in the supermarket will be hard skinned and tasteless.

” The reason is primarily marketing. When I first started growing tomatoes the hybrid varieties were developed for size, colour and flavour.  Although this was popular with the consumer, the supermarkets were not happy as these varieties had a short shelf life. As supermarkets now account for 99% of sales you can guess what happened. To grow a variety that has a long shelf life the seed companies developed a hard skin variety in which flavour was a casualty.

To achieve sales, growers had to switch to these varieties. Consequently demand for the older varieties dropped and the seed companies stopped supplying them.”

Are New Zealand  tomatoes gassed to look ripe?

“No” he said, these varieties will only ripen on the vine and if they are picked early they won’t ripen. The exception is the imported Australian tomatoes. They are harvested green, drenched in spray (for fruit fly), shipped, and if necessary gassed on arrival to ripen. Which is why I have never eaten an Australian tomato.”

So, our NZ supermarket toms are terrible but if you shop around you can find worse! Okay, but what’s all this got to do with earwigs?

This: I was washing a healthy leafy green out of my garden when an earwig crawled out. My wife went, “Eek!” Which is a reasonable reaction, after all, you never ever see little beasties crawl out of supermarket vegetables do you? If you asked my friend the earwig why that is he’d probably say, “Tastes a bit funny to me.”

Share this:
Chris Horan

Chris is a former social worker, probation officer and Family Court counsellor, living in Hawea in the South Island.