What instead of the tomato?

tomato inside1

If there is one produce item that says summer more than any other, I think it's the tomato. Every year I look forward to the arrival of big, juicy tomatoes that have been ripened on the vine outdoors. Once they come to market, I indulge in them any way I can. This year is no different.

But in the U.S. people are being warned off of certain tomatoes (plum and Roma) from certain regions, as well as some types of peppers and cilantro, because of a salmonella scare. While the Food and Drug Administration is saying that tomatoes from other regions are safe, I think it is human nature to be wary of tomatoes in general - just like the spinach contamination scare of last year.

While it's not much of a stretch to think of alternative greens to spinach, it's hard to think of alternatives to tomatoes. What else matches that tart-sweet juiciness?

Are you avoiding tomatoes this summer? What are you using instead of them if so? What other produce says "summer" to you? Any suggestions for tomato-less summer salad?

Filed under:  produce politics usa

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I crave tomatoes like nothing else, so the idea of NOT eating tomatoes is like... blasphemy. While canned tomatoes are good in a pinch, fresh tomatoes REALLY make the difference.

Though for the sake of travel time I will pick up produce when I'm at the grocery store, for the most part (lately) I buy all of my produce locally, at a farmer's market. Locally produced tomatoes are usually from small farms, that can't afford to make big mistakes like the commercial companies can; if Joe McFarmer sells tomatoes at the market that have been contaminated, and word gets out, he won't be selling tomatoes for much longer. The small farms around here also tend to be organic, and while that means the produce is often smaller, it usually tastes better as well (the plant hasn't been stressed out to OMGPRODUCELOTS or make really big vegetables/fruits by application of too much chemical fertilizer).

... that's my theory, anyway. The fact that the local farmer's market is regularly cheaper than the grocery store helps a lot, too.

(I guess what I'm really saying is nuts on the FDA, I'm eating my tomatoes no matter what!)

I stopped buying fresh supermarket tomatoes years ago, because they're such bland, tasteless, mushy-textured things. Even the "ripened on the vine" variety. Even the cherry and grape tomatoes seem to be bred for nothing but sugar-sweetness, and I prefer my tomatoes with some acid.

So I eat fresh tomatoes only seasonally, when they're available from local farmers' markets and farmstands or from my own garden - and here in Western Oregon, that's a relatively short season, maybe 2 1/2 months at best. The rest of the year I make do with store-bought canned tomatoes or the ones I put up myself: dried, packed in oil, oven-roasted and then frozen, converted into sauce. I got over missing fresh tomatoes by realizing that the ones I can buy the rest of the year aren't really tomatoes at all, by my standards of taste and texture.

I have no concerns about the tomatoes I do buy (just as I had no concern about the fresh spinach I bought during the last big food-crisis-du-jour), because I make it my business to know the people who grow them, visit their farms and learn about their practices.

I am still buying tomatoes - but from local vendors, farmers when I can. Since I only buy fresh tomatoes in season I can't bear the thought of avoiding them.

No tomato slices on any of our sandwiches lately; I've been putting pickle slices on mine, but hubby never liked sliced tomato on his sandwiches, so he doesn't miss them and puts his pickles on the side.

I'm also growing my own tomatoes, but got a late start due to some health problems when it was warming up. I hope the handful of teensy green tomatoes hurry up before it's too hot for them. I'll be planting more for the fall season, once the temperature gets back down to tolerable (mid-September or hopefully sooner). I'll be planting more than just tomatoes in fall, since figuring out what was causing my health problems. I'm tired of paying high prices because of increasing fuel prices, tired of being worried about infected produce, and tired of the organic producers taking advantage of these things and sticking it to us with even higher prices.

I went by the Roma's at Walmart the other day in the hopes they'd be super cheap to can. But they're 98 cents/pound yesterday. Maybe I thought of this too late, since the FDA's now thinking of peppers, cilantro, and possibly basil. How low did the roma's go during the big scare, or were the prices not affected during the scare?

With salmonella having sickened over 1000 people in the US, the finger was pointed perhaps too quickly at tomatoes alone rather than, as it probably will turn out to be, certain salsas offered in non-chain restaurants. As growers plowed under their tomato crops -- ready for market, all remaining tomatoes from "good" areas became scarce. Prices didn't go down: supply and demand. What a shame for the innocent tomato growers who had no trace of salmonella but couldn't sell them. A study at Texas A&M several years ago found jalapenos to be three times more likely to carry salmonella than tomatoes and other vegetables.

Yes, I am definitely avoiding tomatoes here in California as well as cilantro and jalapenos. I definitely miss them. It's just too risky. The fruit that screams summer to me is watermelon. It may taste good in a salad. Greek friends introduced me to watermelon with feta cheese, salt, and pepper on it. I tried it and really liked it, but I am very partial to watermelon.

I refuse to eat regular tomatoes since we grew a few on our windowsill one summer. It was only one summer because they wanted to take over the entire house, but I was spoiled for the supermarket kind from then on. Now they look like florist's foam and they taste like it too. We used to pay extra for hothouse tomatoes grown on the mainland (I live on an island in Alaska) until the price went over five dollars a pound.

I recently joined an organic produce co-op that flies stuff up from Alaska every two weeks. It's a random assortment, but now and then we get a couple of real actual honest to goodness grown-in-the-sunlight tomatoes. I don't worry about salmonella.

I stumbled on your blog a while ago and i love reading it :)

hmm in canada the toatoes are still eatable, but i'd suggest cucumbers for the juiciness, or grapefruit which is kinda sweet and sour at the same time and has a great texture! I think adding fruits to your salad just makes it more summery.

I agree! We buy local British Columbia-grown vine-ripened tomatoes year round at our supermarket, and they taste almost as good as the ones we grow in our garden in the summer (although ours are looking sad this year due to neglect). There's sort of a farmer's market near here but it's WAY more expensive than the grocery store tomatoes.

I love tomatoes, and will eat them in shape way or form, and it kind of floors me that elsewhere in the world supermarkets get away with selling tasteless mush. @_@

Although... I admit that nothing tastes better than a tomato plucked fresh from the garden, still warm the sun and eaten as is, like an apple. Mmmm! But I can't help but think that some of you are kind of... too picky? XD

Well, I'm from Mexico and I heven't stopped buying them. I don't eat them raw though, so there's no risk of salmonella ^^
I don't think there's an alternative to tomatoes, since their flavor is rather unique, but I agree with Lynn that cucumbers make a nice option to them if you use them on salads ^^

There is no substitute. I will chime in on the farmers market recommendations. You just have to eat tomatoes.

The US FDA has just lifted the tomato ban. I think peppers are still iffy. Here's a link:


To me, corn, green beans, peaches, and plums are my signs-of-summer produce. Once they're in the grocery store, its summer.

I'm still eating tomatoes... our season is just getting in to gear with the local crop, so I always hold out for that. We're fortunate to have daily farmer's markets throughout the county, so there's always somewhere to find organic and locally produced tomatoes of all different varieties from small family farms.

Canned tomatoes are not the best for cold foods and salads, but in soups and stews like spaghetti, they taste better than cooked raw tomatoes not made for stewing and have more lycopene in them.

Well, maybe I am off topic, but since tomato is a tangy low slightly sweet fruit, you can use a similar tart fruit in cooking to replace it in raw salads and sandwiches and salsas.

Try chopped up mango, pineapple, or strawberry for tomato in a spinach salad. Or make a tropical salsa.

Think of the texture and the taste aspects of something and substitute accordingly. When spinach was accused of salmonella contamination here in the US, I used chard for cooked, and rocket arugula or mache for raw. When I want to simulate the texture of scrambled eggs or ricotta but want to cut down on cholesterol, I substitute with half mashed tofu.

On hot days, when lettuce is expensive, I use seeded, shaved cucumbers in my sandwiches that have been slightly salted and blotted dry with a paper napkin.

If you absolutely had to make do without fresh tomatoes for a salad, some of the alternatives I'd suggest would be:
- sundried tomatoes - plump and juicy in olive oil.
- green olives, orange slices and raw onion or scallion (some dried fish goes well with this too)
- Nopales/nopalitos (these to me taste a little like a cross between green beans and green tomatoes)

An obvious substitution might be tomatillos (well it seems obvious to me, tomatillo means 'little tomato' in Spanish) as they are supposed to taste like tart tomatoes. But I haven't had these yet.

I've not seen any mention up to now of Buñol cancelling the Tomatina Festival in August due to health concerns

I'll continue to eat tomatoes - I love them!

i've used sliced kiwis in salads when i didn't have any tomatoes around. they're not too sweet or too acid, and they have a similar texture if you get them ripe.


I can't imagine life without tomatoes, so I'm growing my own, plus buying them from farmers markets. Really, supermarket tomatoes taste bad anyway so who's missing them? As far as salmonella goes-I think the statistical risk-1000 people out of lots and lots-is still incredibly neglible. Your chances of getting run over by a bus on the way to the market to buy tomato alternatives are much higher than eating the tomatoes themselves. Same goes for jalapenos and cilantro.

There have been 600 cases of vegetable related food poisoning outbreaks during the spinach crisis.
Not only USA but the whole nort american continent and mexico.

And then compare that to 75 million cases of food poisoning per year in the USA...most(95%) caused by eggs, meat and dairy

oh! fresco fresco! rico rico! :)

there are very high prices of tomotoes now a days, what should any one to use in cooking instead of tomotoes?

For cooked dishes you can use canned tomatoes, which are usually not too expensive.