“It looks like food, but…” has often been my reaction when I pick up a fruit or veggie out of season. Putting past objections and reactions out of mind, I remember really wanting a big, juicy slicing tomato last winter. I guess my imagination got the better of me. You know how we can allow our taste buds to salivate over the imagined great taste of a vine-ripened tomato? I was picturing that soft, fragile skin swollen with that tart, juicy, sweet liquid that one finds so savory. I gave in to the urge and went to the supermarket, eager to find that taste experience. I bought one tomato.
You see, I don’t buy tomatoes for most of the year, since we love organic gardening and picking our produce fresh. I admit my conscience bothered me for buying that one tomato. And it wasn’t even labeled “organic”—that’s the tag they now put on produce beginning with the number 9 so you can tell the difference.
But there was another big difference. I put the tomato on the cutting board, with a napkin ready to catch the inevitable seeds that squirt out from the tender red flesh. I cut down, only to discover, to my great disappointment, that it was dry, mealy, and dense. It was more like cutting open a baseball that had been painted red. Now that I think of it, it actually felt more like a baseball than a tomato. I knew better.
Those tomatoes are picked green and then they’re exposed to ethylene gas to turn them red. It looks like food, but it isn’t!
Real food has natural color and “nutrient density.” Nutrient density can be detected by how tasty a fruit or vegetable is, and by the heaviness of the mineral content in the plant’s juice. This is a determining factor in the amount of sucrose, fructose, vitamins, amino acids, or proteins available in the plant for nutrition. Nutrition and taste go together and reflect each other. A good tomato should have high sugar and high acidic flavor, with plenty of juice and pleasing texture and color.
The human taste test is usually the fastest way of finding out if the food is good to eat. However, there are other ways gardeners and farmers can determine healthy food. Truly healthy food gives off a different vibration that, by its nature, repels pests. Here’s the simple way this works: if the minerals in the soil haven’t been depleted or replaced artificially with dangerous chemicals, the plant will use the minerals to construct simple sugars. These plant sugars will then allow the creation of carbohydrates, which in turn triggers the creation of proteins, essential oils, and antioxidants. When a plant has a proper supply of complete proteins, pests are unable to harm the plant because they lack the enzymes in their digestive tracts to break down complete proteins or deal with the rich plant sugars that adversely affect them. Humans can now get the benefit of the nutrition and pleasant taste.
There is an even more scientific way to tell whether something that looks like food is actually something you’d want to be eating. It is called a Brix reading, and is done with a small handheld instrument called a refractometer that measures the amount of refraction or bending of light as it passes through a thin film of plant sap. The amount of bend determines the bionutrient value of the food. The higher the reading, the healthier the food is for you. The healthier it is, the tastier it is. That’s simple!
This winter, we’ll have tomatoes growing indoors, and when I cut that nice slicing tomato, I’ll know that it not only looks like food—it feels like food and it actually tastes like food, just the way nature intended it to taste.