I was wondering recently why it is that your grocer wants to sell you on-the-vine tomatoes?
Well, my guess is there are three reasons:
- Profit - Usually, when I buy tomatoes, I get on-the-vine since I like their taste, but I buy them off-the-vine. I really don't like having to pay for the scrap of vines I'll never use*, so I take them off and leave the chunks of vine behind. I am always careful to be sure that the checkout person knows what they are, though. Its not about being dishonest, its about economics.
As an experiment, I bought tomatoes, vine and all, recently to see how much I'm actually avoiding paying. When I got home, I removed and weighed the stems. It turns out that for around $6 worth of tomatoes, I paid just over 2¢ for the vine. Not bad for me, but when you multiply 2¢ by all of the customers in all of the stores of a major grocery chain, it likely totals a fair amount;
- Profit -Unless you are a careful shopper, it's easy to grab a vine that has some nice looking tomatoes and some that are bumped or bruised or just plain beyond their prime. When you take all of the tomatoes on the stem, you are reducing your grocer's scrap factor. In an open pile, some of the tomatoes you carried off might never be bought by another customer; and
- Profit - Most often around our house, we use about two or three fresh tomatoes at a time. Most often, on-the-vine tomatoes come four or five to the bunch. Unless you eat tomatoes regularly, chances are if you buy on-the-vine tomatoes you are over-buying and throwing away some.
Not to suggest that your grocer is just in it for the money, but one way to get the most bang out of your food budget is to be frugal at the store, and leaving the behind the stems of on-the-vine tomatoes is one way to do that.
* If you are a fan of Hester Blumenthal and his TV show In Search of Perfection, then you know that in his recipe for Italian tomato sauce he uses the stems to add flavor to the sauce. This is the only culinary use of tomato stems I have ever seen.