What Happened To The Aussie Tomato

December 18, 2017

It’s summertime and tomato time, woo hoo , and this includes refreshing Greek salads.

Anyone can make a Greek salad but if you yearn for a successful tasty outcome as I do, the ingredients need to be top quality. Particularly with the olive oil, feta cheese and most importantly the tomato.

According to Medical News Today tomatoes are the fourth most popular fresh-market vegetable behind potatoes, lettuce and onions. We all know they have powerful health benefits and are best consumed during all seasons but in the hot weather they are a delight.   

I am passionate about tomatoes and for unexplained reasons crave for them if not included as part of my regular diet. Perhaps my body calls out for the carotenoids such a lutein and lycopene to protect my eyes against light-induced damage, or it is telling me I need them to maintain my blood pressure or I need to be protected from cancer or diabetes. Whatever it is, I need to eat tomatoes.

Something happened

However, I am constantly disappointed on the first bite and wonder “what has happened to our Aussie tomatoes?”. They have changed. I sound like an oldie complaining about how it is “not like the good ol’days”, but in this case, I have a genuine reason to comment, because it is true.

Once upon a time when our parents grew them, or if purchased at the local corner store, you could smell their grassy pine aroma on the shelf and the taste buds would immediately go into overdrive.

They were deep red juicy tomatoes with a superb sweet flavour evident as soon as you would bite into them. They left a refreshing tang in your mouth. They were also a different shape and often larger in size. Never like todays perfectly rounded, tasteless, juiceless, often seedless, red billiard balls that line up perfectly on a the perfectly displayed shelf in the perfectly music’d supermarket.

I have vivid memories of how tomatoes used to be and in a position to compare and say “what once was, is no more”, well not in Australia anyway. Perhaps the Gen X’s or Y’s may not understand what I am talking about as they may never have been exposed to how tomatoes are supposed to be.

Maybe ignorance is bliss. But not for me and in actual fact not for many others who have joined my band wagon.

Australia and USA

Even as recent as last month when in, Greece, I caught up with associates from the USA and as we chatted over a glass of wine and consumed the local foods, that included tomato’s, it was music to my ears to hear them say “why can’t our tomatoes be like theirs?”. Which lead to our discussion over our love of Greek tomato’s and how they have retained the quality like the ones we used to have as kids. Maybe it is a European thing, Italy is the same. But that’s no excuse.    

Things have undoubtedly changed and I suspect genetic modification may be a contributing factor. Like most things born, not everything is perfect, fruit and vegetables included. So why are we deceived.

In many ways I blame we the consumer. We look for things that are appealing to us.

For example, we pick up a piece of fruit, examine it and for a number or reasons, put it back and pick up another piece. If there are any marks or bruises or an odd shape, we don’t purchase.  I also admit to this type of behaviour when choosing fruit and vegetables although it is more to do with the smell of freshness and colour.

Eternal quest

And so, I continue with my eternal question ‘why can’t Australia produce tomatoes like they used to be’ as they do in Europe?  

I came close to success recently at a local green grocer and found a tomato similar to my specification.

I paid $2.50 for a large one but was keen to try it out!  I left it at room temperature for a day before I tried it. As I sliced through the middle it smelled like a tomato, the pulp was full of seeds, juicy and the taste was the closest to my expectations, similar to the ones in Greece. I wondered why it was so expensive and decided I should not have to pay that price and to continue on my quest.

On a positive note, the candle continues to flicker. I have been advised that in Queensland there is a tomato called Noosa Reds that could potentially ease my dilemma, and the grower does not supply to supermarkets. With a little Google and post-Christmas commitments, I have a new mission.

In the mean-while my tastebuds will continue their mystery hunt. I retain my faith in there is a light at the end of the tunnel and until proven otherwise, there is no better love than a Greek tomato and a good enough reason to return to Greece!

Nanny Babes Greek Salad recipe:


  • 3 ripe red tomatoes, average size, cut into medium pieces
  • 2 cucumbers sliced or wedges (with skin on)
  • 1 small red onion thinly sliced
  • Fresh feta cheese –  200 grams or ¾ pack crumbled with hand has better taste or roughly chopped
  • Handful of black Greek (Kalamata) olives – pitted is easier
  • Ground fresh black pepper and salt to taste
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano or fresh leaves finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Extras if you wish:

-Capsicum thinly sliced


-Cos lettuce

-Dash of red-wine vinegar


-In Greece they place one large slab of feta on top of the salad but I prefer broken down

-Mixing olive oil and wine vinegar prior to pouring gives a greater tang

-Suggest soak the onions in the red-wine vinegar first

-Can add other fresh herbs, coriander, mint, parsley, depending on your preferences

-Top quality tomatoes, feta and oil essential for best taste


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