Safeway is running ads declaring that their tomatoes are "robust," a word that makes me think of strength and resilience, two qualities that should have nothing to do with burstingly juicy red orbs. These characteristics, however, are ridiculously common in tomatoes sold in the United States. Tomatoes need to be robust in order to make the long journeys required for year-round, nationwide availability, and so most are picked when green (and rock hard), put into storage, and when needed, gassed to change their color to something close to red. Of course, an alternative meaning of robust is full-bodied or hearty, attributes rarely found in grocery store tomatoes, especially out of season.
Fortunately, the season of real tomatoes is almost here, and then we can enjoy tomatoes that are so ripe they can barely make the journey from the backyard or farmers market to the kitchen, tomatoes that burst with flavors of the sun, tomatoes that we'll be dreaming about long into the middle of next winter.
A note about the photo: From a poster displayed on trains on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART).