Adding Tomatoes to Winter Salads? Stop, Right Now

There’s no reason why we should accept pink, mealy tomatoes in our salads
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Pink, mealy winter tomatoes do nothing but ruin a salad.

I would like to declare a war on the salad tomato.

I’m not talking about juicy, peak-of-summer tomatoes, the kind that need little adornment other than salt and pepper. I can, and often do, eat those by the pound, many of them picked fresh from my own garden, still warm from the summer sun.

What I’m talking about are the wan, mealy imposters that, for reasons I cannot explain, are apparently mandatory inclusions in many entrée and side salads, no matter the season. 

Exhibit A: A few weeks ago, my husband and I took our two-year-old son out for dinner. We went to one of our local eateries, a family-friendly café whose textbook-size menu offers something for everyone. I ordered the grilled salmon salad.

The salad came, and it looked fine. The grilled salmon sat atop a bed of lettuce, roasted red peppers, grilled portobello mushrooms, sliced Bermuda onions, diced cucumbers, and — there they were — a few wedges of pink, rock-hard tomatoes.

Why? Where is it written that a salad must contain tomatoes, even if those tomatoes taste like mealy, starchy nothingness? And why does the public continue to accept this stupid practice? It makes no sense to me.

When a steak is over- or undercooked, you send it back. If your pancakes are raw in the middle or your toast is burnt, you complain. But when you get a salad with icy, pink tomatoes, you… what? “Well, it’s the best they could do. It is February, after all.”

No! Stop that right now! If something tastes bad — or, frankly, like nothing at all — a restaurant shouldn’t be putting it in my salad or yours. Are the tomatoes there for decoration? Because let’s face it: underripe tomatoes are pretty ugly. They add zero aesthetic value to my plate. And they taste like fuzzy icicles.

I realize there are more important battles to fight when it comes to what and how we eat. I know it’s hard to get riled up over a seemingly innocuous slice of fruit. But if we continue to accept crap — whether that’s in the form of unripe tomatoes or overly processed food — then that’s what we’ll get. We should demand better.

So join me in my crusade. It may only be a tomato, but really it’s the tip of the iceberg — and I’m not talking about the lettuce.