There has been a lot of discussion this week on an article on farms in Mexico growing organic tomatoes to supply the American market. While, the decision to buy organic is understandable, the idea of demanding tomatoes in winter is not such a good one. Tomatoes are out of season in winter so they have to be shipped in from Mexico: this process, while profitable for the farmers poses sustainability issues. The climate is conducive to growing tomatoes in winter but it is essentially a dry, desert area which means that, even though the farmers are using drip irrigation methods, water reserves have been almost exhausted. Many consumers feel that if they buy organic, they are doing the right thing by the family they feed and the planet. Unfortunately, these decisions are more complex than they seem at first look. The cultivation of asparagus in Peru to ship to European markets in winter presents a similar story.
Here is a basic rule to live by: buy in season. There are no tomatoes in winter so choose recipes that do not require them to be produced in an unsustainable way and shipped using fossil fuels just because we think we must have organic tomato salad. It is hard: I know because I am a tomato devotee having a tough time avoiding those luscious piles of redness at the grocery store but it has to be done to conserve our resources and ease the strain on our planet.