News you can use on chickens and tomatoes

Photo: Some Rights Reserved.

Photo: Some Rights Reserved.

Two things of food-and-farming interest caught my attention this morning.  News from The New York Times that better tasting tomatoes may be on the way to a supermarket near you. And from Morning Edition and NPR’s blog, The Salt, it seems we’ve been wrong, all along, about washing raw chicken before cooking.

In the latter case, we’re in good company. Julia Child liked to wash HER chickens, too. That’s why I’ve always washed chickens…her voice is literally in my head on this one. But according to salt blogger Maria Godoy this morning, the USDA has long advised against the practice. Turns out, there certainly ARE germs like salmonella all over chickens, but washing makes things worse rather than better.

Godoy brings us a great clip from The French Chef, in which Child famously says washing raw chicken just seems like the safer thing to do.

Then Godoy turns to a food safety researcher who’s trying to change our minds, and reform our kitchen habits. Jennifer Quinlan, of Drexel University, says there’s no science behind Child’s advice. In fact, she tells Godoy, washing spreads the salmonella and/or other pathogens around the kitchen, presumably onto whatever OTHER food is in the immediate area.

As illustration, there’s a telling animation contrasting what we see, and where the germs actually go at The Salt as well. Ick.

But, no fear, proper cooking, to 165 F, gets rid of the bad germs anyway.

Now on to the encouraging tomato news.

NYT’s health reporter Kenneth Chang takes readers to the University of Florida Institute for Plant Innovation,  where scientists are going deep into tomato innards to figure out why supermarket tomatoes are so tasteless, and what to do about it.

It’s not a huge surprise that the tomatoes we buy in the supermarket, especially those winter ones,  have been bred for good looks and superior durability. But do we HAVE to lose good flavor in trade?

UFL horticulture professor Harry Klee  is pretty certain we don’t.  He and his team, Chang writes, want to “tweak the tomato DNA – through traditional breeding, not genetic engineering.”

“There are more than 400 volatiles in a tomato, and Dr. Klee and his collaborators set out to first determine which ones are the most important in making a tasty tomato.

This involved grinding up a lot of tomatoes, looking at what was in them, and asking a lot of people to taste them…”

And he hopes we’ll taste the difference in the next few years.  There is LOTS more about the details of the research in the NYT’s health section. BTW – Chang has a comment from a Cornell horticulture professor, James Giovanni, who helped sequence the tomato genome.

Chang also recalls the Flavr Savr (he says it was the first genetically modified food available in markets, in 1994), and why it’s no longer on the market. Turns out, Chang writes, Monsanto bought the Flavr Savr, and no longer sells the seeds.


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One Comment

  1. If I splashed that much water around the kitchen, my wife would smack me.