The Trouble With Tomatoes


December 2, 2011 by Leah

Since our big move, my old problem with tomatoes has come up again. That would be the problem where tomatoes, particularly organic tomatoes, are incredibly expensive out-of-season (and we kind of try to eat seasonally anyway), but canned tomatoes are full of BPA. Among other things. My in-laws both worked at canneries around here (Eastern Oregon) when they were younger and now refuse to buy processed (canned or frozen) produce because they’ve “seen too much.”

That said, I bought some Muir Glen canned tomatoes the other day because of this blog entry, which includes anecdotal evidence that Muir Glen tomatoes with a sell-by date of 2013 are no longer packaged in BPA-lined cans, and that the difference can be discerned because the lining of the can is a coppery color rather than the standard white. Well, my can was still lined in white. And I used them anyway. This was probably stupid considering I’m pregnant, but I seem to be constitutionally incapable of throwing away food. I rationalized this behavior – I mean, first of all, I was making stuffed peppers which I normally hate and for some reason they sounded amazing – until I came across this little blurb today: Fox News, people! What alternate universe did I wake up in that Fox News is publicizing problems with the food system? And canned tomatoes are public enemy number one!

Talk about shameful. For the rest of the winter, I will be spending $3-8 per pound on imported organic tomatoes. Not the ideal situation, but since I can’t seem to stop myself from buying the entire organic produce section every time I go to the store, I might as well roll with that. Baby needs nutrients. (The great thing is we’re actually eating all the produce. And the produce in our wannabe root cellar from my mother-in-law’s garden. And the emergency supplies of frozen vegetables I keep on hand. Yesterday alone I had beets, carrots, garlic, shallots, apples, pears, Asian pears, pumpkin, lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, an orange, and a ton of fresh lemon juice.)

Lastly, before anyone points out I should be growing my own tomatoes, I must remind you that we just moved into our house – in a place where we actually get seasons – last month. At the beginning of winter. So home-grown are out until at least next summer. To that end, though, I’m already getting excited about gardening. And I’m sure the baby won’t mind getting some Vitamin D while I’m in the garden. She or he might mind the neighborhood cats, but we will have Duke on our side.


12 thoughts on “The Trouble With Tomatoes

  1. lahancock says:

    I may have a solution for you. Not sure how much it is per pound because you have to sign in, but Azure Standard has a drop point in Walla Walla. I wish that we had a drop point her in TN, they are working on it. My friend Mary orders stuff all of the time from them, she lives in Nebraska. She said the produce is great quality. Kind of hurts the carbon footprint with the shipping, but at least you will be eating foods that you feel good about. Not that it was ideal, but I’ve eaten plenty of canned items while pregnant. While not perfect, if you don’t do it often, hopefully there will be no long term affects. My kiddos are young so we won’t know for a while. I thought too that you had decided to buy jarred tomato products. Anyway, here you go…I’ll paste their tomato page here:

    • I’ve been buying organic jarred tomato products, but can’t find any plain ol’ tomatoes in jars. Good idea on Azure – I ordered from them once in Long Beach. If I do it again here I now know it’s a good idea to introduce myself to the area organizer, because I just remember feeling totally ostracized when I went to pick up my 50 lbs. of baking soda. (Ridiculous, I know.) But very happy once I had a 50 lb. bag of baking soda sitting in my second bathroom.

  2. Diana Strzok says:

    I am of the same constitutional make-up. Once I was moaning to a friend about the fact that an employee had just left a piece of cake on my desk for me which, of course, I had no option but to eat. My friend shocked me by taking the cake and tossing it in the garbage, an action that would have never occurred to me to do, and stunned my constitutional make-up, but now I occasionally can do it myself – it was a life changing event!!!!

  3. Maria Benner says:

    After you grow hundreds of tomatoes in your garden, you’ll be able to can your own. Lucky!!!

  4. Megan says:

    Hmm – I must not spend enough time discussing various food preservation methods with my parents because I have never heard either of them say that! And we have supplemented home grown preserved tomatoes with store-bought canned ones for as long as I can remember….?

    Also – if you are that worried about exposing your baby to toxic substances I recommend you abstain from reading FOX news too!!

    • I could swear your mom just told me she avoids canned goods and intimated there were horror stories to go along with such avoidance. And your dad has been talking about the pea plant a lot lately because it’s the only time he ever had to go clean-shaven. Or maybe because we moved in practically next door to said cannery. Who knows. (Or maybe I’m just totally making this up. Brain not functioning so well these days.)

      Re: Fox News, you are not the first person to bring this up! In my defense, Polyface Farms (you know, as featured in The Omnivore’s Dilemma) posted the Fox News link on FB because Joel Salatin was quoted in the article. It’s not like I’m lurking on their website or anything. Baby listens to NPR and reads the New York Times. 🙂

  5. David G says:

    Have you gotten any seed catalogues yet? I have gotten 2 and am looking forward to spring planting. Now is a good time to collect lots of leaves to start sheet mulching. Gaia’s garden, a book on permaculture/forest gardening was written by an author near you.

    • No – I need to figure out which seed catalogs are appropriate for my new environment. (Not that I lived in the last place long enough to figure this out.)

      • David G says:

        Well Baker Creek Seeds offer a wide assortment of heirloom seeds, they are based out of MO, but they have growers all over the country and provide seeds for almost any US environment. They sell seeds at
        They also have a forum at

        You may want to look at permaculture, I know you’re not a big fan of lawns. The book Gaia’s Garden is the best source for complete permaculture info. Edible Forest Gardens Vol I & II are also great. A third book that describes plants, which regions they do well in and where to buy them is Perennial Vegetables. You are in Zone 7A, the same as Tennessee, which means you will have lots of great plants available. There is another type of zone map that I can’t think of at the moment but it takes into account high temps, low temps, moisture distribution, elevation, length of summer/winter, etc to give very specific zones, but I can’t remember the name at the moment. You’ll probably want to stick to short season varieties of plants till you know what does best in your area.

        Another website you might like.

      • David G says: Sunset is the zone type I was thinking of. You can look up appropriate plants for your zone under their zone finder.
        You are in the Sunset Zone 3. “This is the mildest of the three snowy-weather zones in the West. It includes the fruit- and crop-growing areas along the eastern Columbia River and portions of Idaho near Boise. This zone also extends along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range, encompassing the Reno area, and it includes the Coast Ranges of Oregon and Washington. The growing season here is usually 160 days (although 220 days can be usual around the Walla Walla region of eastern Washington). On the east side of the Cascade Range and the Sierra Nevada, the drying winds of winter exacerbate the cold by dehydrating plants growing in frozen soil. And along the Coast Ranges in Oregon, the heavy winter rain, occasional snow, and rugged terrain combine to limit plant grown.”

        “ZONE 3. West’s Mildest High-elevation and Interior Regions
        Growing season: early May to late Sept.–shorter than in Zone 2, but offset by milder winters (lows from 13 degrees to -24 degrees F/-11 degrees to -31 degrees C). This is fine territory for plants needing winter chill and dry, hot summers.” American Viticultural Area

        The soils of the Walla Walla Valley consist largely of wind-deposited silt known as loess, that provides good drainage for the vines. The area receives minimum rainfall and thus relies on irrigation to supply water to vineyards. The 200-day long growing season is characterized by hot days and cool nights.[3] The valley is prone to sudden shifts in temperature as cold air swoops down from the Blue Mountains and gets caught in the Snake and Columbia river valleys. While generally cooler than the surrounding Columbia Valley AVA, temperatures in the winter time can drop to −20 °F (−29 °C).

        In 1883, Northern Pacific Railway bypassed the Walla Walla Valley for a route from Spokane to Seattle. This essentially cut off Walla Walla from the growing markets of the west. That same year a severe frost devastated the area’s grapevines and caused a lot of the earlier grape growers to abandon their crops.[9] The dawning of Prohibition in the United States in the early 20th century finished off the remaining aspect of the area as a wine region.

      • Thanks for all the great info! I’m planning to do some garden planning this week.

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