Sometimes when you pull a can of soup out of the pantry or squirt ketchup on your hamburger (or mac and cheese, like my cousins do *blech*) it can be a little difficult to remember that the ingredients had to be grown somewhere in the first place. We don’t live in a world of Soylent Green yet. What is even harder to remember is that the companies that make our food products don’t just grow a little or even an acre of just any old thing. They have to grow acres and acres of the same thing.
A major food company has to expect that every fruit or vegetable they put in their product tastes pretty close to the fruit or vegetable they put in their product 6 months… 2 year… 10 years ago. As any home gardener can tell you (probably with a few swear words), getting even the same variety of tomato or pepper to taste and produceÂ the same year after year is no small task. Just imagine having to do it in fields that are easily larger than some European countries.
Because of this need for consistancy, many food companies have actually developed their own strains of fruits and vegetables or have kept alive some very old heirloom varieties in order to keep the quality of their products consistent.
The Tabasco chili pepper is probably the best know variety like this. Tabasco has been using the same variety of hot peppers for over 130 years. The original seed is of unknown decent and was given to the founder of Tabasco. The ancestors of that original handful of seeds still make the hot sauce you buy today. When the crop is harvested, the seeds from the best plants are carefully stored at several corporate locations and in a bank vault as well to ensure that no matter what disaster might befall the company, the Tabasco pepper will continue to be grown. The home gardener can an also buy Tabasco pepper seeds so that they can grow this variety in their own garden.
Campbell’s Soup is another company that has developed their own lines of tomatoes and peppers for use in their products. In 1948, they set out to create consistent lines of tomatoes and peppers for use in their food products. So far, 24 varieties of tomatoes and 10 varieties of peppers have been produced from their research end development center. While their seeds are not as readily available as the Tabasco brand peppers, if you know the names, you can still find them available in seed catalogs.
Heinz is another company that has invested time and money in creating new varieties of tomato seeds to keep their products consistent no matter where the tomatoes are grown. Heinz tests each new variety in 10 different countries. Most of Heinz’s varieties are used commercially and are difficult to find for the home grower, but they can be found if you know what to look for.
While you might think that corporate veggies might be less tasty than the laymen kind, you might be surprised. Remember, corporate branded produce does not have to travel as far as, say, the cardboard grocery tomato, so they are bred more for taste and production than for transportability. Certainly, if you grow them in your garden, you might be able to trick the kids into eating the Heinz tomato rather than the Heinz ketchup.