Sweet Onion Panzanella Salad + The Real Cost of Tomatoes

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Today we are going to spend some time talking about tomatoes.

Beautiful, red, ripe, tomatoes. They are the hearts and soul of so many dishes, there just isn’t much out there that can compare to a perfectly ripe, slave-free, in-season tomato.

Yes, I just said Slave-Free.

Did you know that as of June 2102 there are ONLY two national supermarket chains where you can buy slave-free tomatoes certified by the Fair Food Program?

The two national brands are Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s (not including smaller regional chains, privately-owned stores, CSA’s and Farmer’s Markets). And, yes, we are talking about tomatoes grown right here in the U.S of A. They are mostly grown in Florida.

So what the hell is going on? 

Modern day slavery in the tomato fields of Florida, that is what. Kind of hard to believe right? And sickening.

Let’s get some facts:

• Over the past 15 years, seven cases of forced labor slavery have been successfully prosecuted, resulting in over 1,000 people freed from slavery in U.S. tomato fields.

• Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Molloy once called Florida’s tomato fields “ground zero” for modern-day slavery in the United States.

• The Fair Food program, developed by tomato pickers themselves through the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, establishes a zero tolerance policy for slavery, child labor and serious sexual abuse on Florida’s tomato farms.

• Major fast food companies, like McDonalds and Subway, have already endorsed the Fair Food Program, but the largest U.S. supermarket chains (eg Aldi’s) have yet to support this collaborative effort to eradicate slavery. This summer, we are petitioning supermarkets to do their part by joining the Fair Food Program, just like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have done—the only two national supermarket chains to do so as of June 2012.

• Corporations that join the Fair Food Program agree to pay a small price increase for fairly harvested tomatoes (1.5 cents more per pound), and promise to shift purchases to the Florida tomato growers who abide by these higher standards – and away from those who won’t.

So, what can and should WE do?

• Send a letter asking major U.S. supermarket chains to join the Fair Food Program. It takes less than 30 seconds, just fill in your name and address and press send!

• Grow your own tomaotes if you can.

• Buy local. Support Farmer’s Markets and CSA’s.

• Buy from stores who are commited to The Fair Food Program like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

• Talk to your local store manager and find out where their tomatoes come from. If you aren’t’ satisfied with the status quo, download a petition from the International Justice Mission and make changes in YOUR local store, YOUR community.

A HUGE thank you to Nicole from The Giving Table for organizing “Tomato Tuesday aka Food Bloggers for Slave Free Tomatoes”.

To learn more head over to The International Justice Mission Recipe for Change.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Sweet Onion Panzanella Salad
4 Points Plus Per Serving -- Recipe Makes 6 Servings -- Individual Serving is 1 Heaping Cup
Serves: 6
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes (either Roma on smaller tomatoes on the vine), cubed
  • 1 medium English cucumber, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small sweet onion, cut into quarters and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 5 ounces day-old Italian country bread (see NOTES), cubed
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup (great quality) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  1. Quarter tomatoes and toss into a large bowl along with cucumber, sweet onion and basil.
  2. Toss to combine. Throw in cubed (day-old) bread, salt and pepper. Finish with olive oil and vinegar.
  3. Toss again, serve immediately and Enjoy!
  1. *Panzanella Salad is traditionally made with red onion. I find red onion can be a bit harsh and really appreciate the sweet and light flavor of white, sweet onion in this salad. Especially this time of year when Walla-Walla, Vidalia and Texas onions are readily available.
  2. *Get a really good dense and crusty Italian Country Bread and let it sit out a day. You don't need to toast it unless it is just-baked.
  3. *I long for this salad and make it every summer when tomatoes are at their peak. Usually, after eating it so many times I get sick of it. Until I start wishing I had some ripe tomatoes and begin to long for it again. It's a vicious cycle you want to be a part of. Trust me on this.

Further Reading:

·         Tomatoland, Barry Estabrook
·         “The True Cost of Tomatoes,” Mark Bittman, The New York Times
·         “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Immokalee Florida,” Jennifer Mascia, The New York Times
·         “Making Tomato Farming Less Brutal,” The Herald-Tribune
·         “After Long Fight, Farmworkers In Florida Win An Increase In Pay,” The New York Times
·         “Cultivating Fear: The Vulnerability Of Immigrant Farmworkers In The U.S. To Sexual Violence And Sexual Harassment,” Human Rights   Watch
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    • EverydayMaven says

      It really is hard to believe and so upsetting. Thanks for sharing the post today Jeanette – I appreciate it :)

  1. says

    I used to live in Florida, so I know full well about the awful labor conditions there. Great cause you’re bringing to our attention. Nice salad, too. I usually find red onion to be just right for my taste buds, but you make a good point that some may find them too harsh. Excellent post – thank you.
    kitchenriffs recently posted..Planter’s PunchMy Profile

  2. says

    I just read Faith’s post on modern day slavery in the tomato fields of Florida, and it makes me mad and sad that this goes on, and we are only just being made aware of it. Although I now live in the UK I will be informing my relatives to put pressure on the supermarkets to clean up their act as they are the ones who can change this. Thanks to you both for spreading awareness of this horrifying practice. On a lighter note, the salad looks divine!
    kellie@foodtoglow recently posted..Cherry-Chocolate ClafoutisMy Profile

  3. Eha says

    Altho’ I read this from Australia and am not directly involved, kudos to you for helping do something to eradicate this huge problem. Have to do some homework re the status quo here: I know a lot of the picking/harvesting etc is carried on by packpackers from Europe and the US: have known quite a few and they are basically satisfied with their conditions, heavy tho’ the work is Don’t know about the migratory locals who move annually from area> area!

    • EverydayMaven says

      I was shocked and surprised when I first found out as well Susan – crazy stuff. You’re welcome – hopefully we can make an impact by voicing together for change and shopping at stores that support the cause!

    • EverydayMaven says

      Thanks Faith – they really do. This is one of my favorite summer dishes. I can’t wait to see what you posted. So glad to participate today!

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