Some folks mark the end of summer with a last splash at the pool on Labor Day. For me, the season has hit the tape when the road-side produce vendors pack up shop. Really, to be honest, it isn’t all the produce – just the tomatoes.
There is nothing better than a plump, juicy tomato that tastes as a tomato should. Keep it simple: a bit of coarse salt and pepper on the side of a paper plate with a freshly-cut tomato fanned out and, man, dinner is served.
And oftentimes, the uglier the tomato, the more awesome it is. Last year, during a stop at an elderly gentleman’s stand in West Helena, I asked what varieties were available. He rattled off a couple of names and then pointed to some exceptionally ugly purplish tomatoes at the table’s end.
“Those are ‘Arlims,’” he said. “They’re the best I have. You just have to cut around the bad spots.” Seeing my perplexed expression he repeated himself and shrugged: “Arlims.”
Believing the tomatoes to be some new variety called “Harlem,” I bought two containers. They were, indeed, super. It wasn’t until later, tucked into a fat tomato with juice running down my chin, I realized the produce salesman and I had different pronunciations of the word “heirloom.”
After that, every stop at the vendor has had me asking for Arlims. Several times, I’ve even lucked out and beaten his other customers to them.
Over in Europe, researchers have developed several genetically modified tomatoes that are jam-packed with disease-fighting or preventative properties. “Just one of the genetically engineered tomatoes grown by British scientists contains as much of the grape compound resveratrol as 50 bottles of red wine,” says a report in The Independent.
Resveratrol is the chemical in red wine said to combat major diseases in humans including heart ailments and Alzheimer’s. Why are the French able to eat all that fatty food without citizens dropping dead of coronaries every few steps? A factor, researchers say, is all the red wine being quaffed at the same time that wheel of cheese is being eaten.
A second GM tomato “produced the same amount of genistein -- a soybean compound that may help prevent breast cancer -- as five pounds of tofu.”
So, could these GM tomatoes help break European consumers’ opposition to genetically modified foods? Well, if they taste even close to an Arlim, they should.