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Why Are Homegrown Tomatoes So Much Better – Flavor, Size, & More!

Shopping at the grocery store, usually, we see all these brightly colored, very large tomatoes. Never very expensive, and always so many of them. After purchasing a few and taking them home to cook with, you may find them to taste a little bland after the ones you just grew in your garden. Why is that, you may wonder? 

The mass production of all produce leads to it tasting a lot more like cardboard and less like what it’s supposed to taste, sweet, tangy, juicy, and delicious. Genetic mutations, or GMOs, can be the blame for this. 

Continue reading if you are curious about the world of mass-produced tomatoes and why they taste so much worse than the ones you grow at home.

Why Are Store Bought Tomatoes So Bland?

Unless you buy your tomatoes at a farmer’s market or even from the organic section, tomatoes from the supermarket usually taste off. And it’s not just you. Most people can recognize the taste difference between mass-produced tomatoes compared to homegrown or organic ones. Store-bought tomatoes are often described as bland, tasting like cardboard, dry, and flavorless.

The reason for this is that studies have shown when people are shopping, they tend to buy the produce that looks the most delicious, the best looking ones out of the bunch. Anything that has fewer splotches is perfectly shaped, with no discoloration.

But we all know that tomatoes and other produce don’t always grow this way. Splotches, discoloration, and wonky shapes are just part of nature. However, these big companies have genetically mutated tomatoes into growing the “perfect” tomato.

Scientists had tracked it back to about 70 years ago when this new crossbreed of tomato started hitting the shelves. Tomatoes, when mass-produced, will all come out looking the same. But this is where the flavor gets lost. The mutation takes away much of the proteins that are in charge of the fruits sugars. It allows the fruit to ripen (be red) before it’s ready. 

These mutations are responsible for so many other things that normal tomatoes aren’t supposed to have. Still, taking away the sugar production is the top answer for why your store bought tomatoes may be blander.

Key Reasons Homegrown Tomatoes Taste Better Than Store-Bought Tomatoes

Here are the main differences as to why your homegrown tomatoes taste way better than store-bought.

  1. Sugar levels
  • As we discussed earlier, these GMO tomatoes have a much lower sugar level than those at home. Not only are the levels lower in general, but immediately upon harvest, so much of the sugars turn into starch. This happens to a lot of supermarket produce. 
  1. Soil Nutrients
  • Unlike at home, these big farms aren’t usually checking the soil and doing a thorough check of each plant to see if they are lacking any nutrients as we do at home. It’s easier on a small scale to tell if a plant needs more nitrogen or more calcium. But the quality of the soil also matters. Starting with a good fertilizer can make a world of difference.
  1. Artificially Ripened
  • Something called ethylene is why we have ripe tomatoes but tasteless tomatoes in the store. Natural gas emits from the fruit on the vine; all it does is make them red. There is nothing else getting into the tomato to give it flavor. They do this because the tomatoes are less likely to bruise during shipping if picked before they are ripe. 

Are They Trying to Fix Store Bought Tomatoes?

For some 70 years now, it has been in progress to make the perfect sellable tomato. Today, a tomato can ripen on demand, be mass-produced, produced quickly, and won’t bruise during shipping. Studies are currently being done with scientists trying to figure out what genes were stripped from the tomato when all its other genes were altered.

Understanding these genes and what each one does (tomatoes have 31,760 genes) will ultimately allow scientists to create a tomato that can be mass-produced and still retain all their delicious flavor. It is a long way off, so it’s better to grow your own for now. Healthier too. 

Are All GMOs Bad?

You have to think about what GMO means. It is a genetic mutation tampering with a product’s genes to change it somehow. But this can be a good thing in some instances.

For example, GMOs have fewer pesticides. When a product has been modified to ward off pests and kill bugs that eat it, there is less of a need to spray the product with chemicals. Foods that have been modified tend to have more nutrients in them. Corn, for instance, has been tested that it has two times as much folate as its original crops and up six times as much vitamin c. 

So although the word GMO is tossed around with so much hate, it isn’t always a bad thing. We wouldn’t have things like golden apples, white russet potatoes, and summer squash without GMOs. With that being said, however, they do still have some work to do in the tomato department. They won’t stop until they have created a tomato that can be mass-produced quickly and effectively and taste good. 

How To Make Store Bought Tomatoes Taste Better

If you are looking for ways to make those bland store bought tomatoes taste a little better, look no further! Here are my favorite ways to add some flavor to your tomatoes.

  1. Broil
  • Broiling tomatoes is a great way to add flavor without adding really anything else. Broiling allows for the sugars in the skin of the tomatoes to caramelize a bit, making them taste a bit sweeter than they were before. 
  1. Sauce
  • Tomato sauce is probably the most popular way to use up the less desirable tomatoes. Apart from appearance not mattering, it is easy to get pretty much any flavor you want out of your tomatoes with a sauce. You can add things like sugar, seasonings, oil, etc. 
  1. Pineapple juice
  • My grandma’s favorite insider cooking tip! Pineapple juice works wonders for watery-tasting tomatoes by mimicking the acidity and sweetness of the juicy tomato. Add a dash into your tomato sauce, tomato soup, or even a heavier stir fry on the tomato side. Use one tablespoon at a time until you have the flavor you desire. 
  1. Seasoning
  • Never doubt the power of seasonings. Perhaps the easiest way to add flavor to your tomatoes. Whatever you are cooking, if you are using those bland tomatoes, don’t be shy with that garlic or Italian season—the more the merry for those cardboard tomatoes. Salt and pepper are your best friend. 

It is always a better idea to grow your vegetables if you can. Otherwise, shop organic or at your local farmers market! That way, you always know what you are getting growing, and you know for sure that your food doesn’t have anything on it that you wouldn’t want to put in your body.

It tastes better that way too! We can’t blame GMOs for everything, but we can blame them for our bad-tasting store-bought tomatoes. But that can’t stop us from making some delicious tomato sauce. 

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