Tuesday July 17, 2007

Ugly Tomato

Ugly ripe

Major controversy surrounds the so-called ugly tomato. A man-made hybrid of some heirloom varieties, supposedly they taste much more “like a tomato” then anything else you can get. I’m not sure where the legal situation sits right now. They used to be illegal to export from Florida because of their unusual shape, though I believe the ban was recently lifted.

I spotted some at Publix the other day, and decided to try one out. Mine came individually protected in a little stretchy styrofoam net, and at $2.99/lb (I believe that’s actually a bargain for them), it set me back about a buck fifty. It came with a sticker linking to the official Ugly Ripe website, which confirms the legal status:

The new USDA rule, published in today‚Äôs [January 17, 2007] Federal Register, amends the Florida Tomato Marketing Order to exempt the UglyRipe from the shape portion of the USDA grade standards as long as the UglyRipe is grown, packed, and distributed under USDA’s Identity Preservation Program (IPP). The IPP uses the unique genetic fingerprint of a produce variety to assure that it is in fact the product claimed by its grower. The UglyRipe will still have to meet all of the other grade standards imposed under the marketing order.

This is all suitably absurd, but what about the taste? Well, I chopped up half of one into my salad, and saved the other half, which I’m munching on as I type. No worries here: it’s delicious. The skin is a little thicker then a regular tomato, and gives it a hint of leaves, and (seriously) earthy notes. I have to admit that the differences was much less dramatic in the salad. And cooked, I’d bet it disapears for all but the most discriminating marinara palate. I’d recommend picking one up and eating it sliced into wedges, sprinkled with a little salt.

Oh, and get this: the Ugly Ripe has a blog.

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  1. Chris    Tue Jul 17, 11:27 AM #  

    Is this any way related to Ugli Fruit? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ugli_fruit)

    I used to work at Norman Brothers (baaack in the day…) and when those came in they flew off the shelves. It’s a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. Easy to peel and tastes better than it looks.

  2. ricks    Tue Jul 17, 11:32 AM #  

    uglyripe smells devine as well!

  3. CL Jahn    Tue Jul 17, 12:41 PM #  

    I’m a tomato snob. I grew up in South Jersey, where the Jersey Tomato is supreme. Tomatoes were a primary crop, and many generations of my family raised them, along with peaches, pears and strawberries. My great-grandfather used to sell tomatoes to Campbell’s soup. We always had tomatoes growing in the yard; and that’s about is good as it gets. So I’m picky about tomatoes.

    Ugly-Ripes are the only tomato I will buy. If a store isn’t carrying them, they don’t have tomatoes in my opinion. They are as good a tomato as you can find outside a farm.

    Yes, they are delicious with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

  4. Steve    Tue Jul 17, 07:53 PM #  

    CL Jahn is 100% correct. I have just returned from south Jersey, where I pigged out on tomatoes, Kirby cukes, and peaches from produce stands on the Black Horse Pike. Jersey produce set the benchmark for these as well as corn and melons. I grew up on these amazing treats and haven’t sampled their like anywhere, least of all here in the Banana Republic.