Monday, October 03, 2005

Moneymaker Tomatoes

I’ve been slicing tomatoes for Rosh Hashana dinner, and remembering the story of the Moneymaker tomatoes.

Israelis are very particular about their tomatoes. A tomatoer/cucumber salad along with white cheese and bread is the traditional Israeli breakfast, and it’s a point of pride among Israelis that their tomatoes are the best. Indeed the classic Israeli tomatoes – small and round - are wonderful.

But in the early 60’s, the then minister of agriculture, I believe it was Moshe Dayan of one-eyed fame, decided to give Israeli agriculture a boost. Instead of growing the notoriously finicky standard Israeli tomatoes, they would grow Roma tomatoes, nicknamed in Hebrew “Moneymakers” because they’re so easy to grow, and therefore profitable. In best planned economy form, ALL Israeli farms converted their crop that year to Moneymakers. And lo and behold, that year a plague hit the Moneymakers, a pest specific to that breed, and they all died. It was a sad year in Israel. No tomatoes. And that was the end of the Moneymaker tomato craze in Israel.

Now this is a story that my father told me, and I’m assume there’s a level of exaggeration in it, but who knows…


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