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.
To learn more head over to The International Justice Mission Recipe for Change.
- 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
- Quarter tomatoes and toss into a large bowl along with cucumber, sweet onion and basil.
- Toss to combine. Throw in cubed (day-old) bread, salt and pepper. Finish with olive oil and vinegar.
- Toss again, serve immediately and Enjoy!
- *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.
- *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.
- *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.