The Red King


Graphic courtesy of Canva.

Elliot Munson, Former Culture Editor

This previously ran in our April 2022 print issue.

Tomatoes, truly, are king. Not just of fruits, their botanical family, but of vegetables and indeed all produce. They have unmatched versatility, delivering the best breakfast you’ve ever had sandwiched between two slices of olive-oil toasted sourdough slathered with a garlic aioli, along with a sheath of crisp, fresh lettuce, and a few sticks of crispy, salty thick- cut bacon. They only go upwards from breakfast as the day goes on, forming the backbone of a delicious and healthy lunch, spread on a plate with matching slices of fresh mozzarella, topped with basil picked that morning and a generous drizzle of balsamic vinegar. For dinner, they form not only a impecable appetizer of bruschetta, reuniting the bread-tomato combination that made your morning, but can take a dip in the deep-fryer for fried green tomatoes, a staple of the south, or get tossed into a salad to tie together the mix of flavors and textures. As an entree, they form the base of a delicious tomato soup. 

It’s true that none of these things are the best. There are better sandwiches than a BLT, better spreads than a caprese salad, and better soups than tomato. Yet, no other ingredient has the incredible range of the tomato, nor delivers as strongly in each and every use case. Plenty of things have a tomato’s sweet juiciness and cool, refreshing taste. But no one makes a plum soup — a plum is relegated to a fate of being eaten alone, maybe being put into a duck sauce or pudding, if it’s lucky. Chili peppers have incredible flavor and make almost every dish they are put in better, but they don’t form the spine of anything in the way a tomato does, instead acting as a fun addition to make the main show a little bit better.

Even outside of tomato’s family of fruits, there are strong competitors for the best produce. Asparagus can be served a million and one different ways and goes well with just about anything, but let’s be real; it’s asparagus. Mushrooms carry more flavor than anything on god’s green earth, and can take any broth to the next level, but they still are missing the adaptability of a tomato. And, even on the battlefield of umami in which mushrooms reigns supreme, the tomato is still a capable combatant, packing its own umami flavor with glutamate, so delicious it’s drunk straight in the form of V-8 juice. As such, it’s clear to see who reigns supreme in the world of produce. The balanced attributes and range of the tomato, truly, are unmatched, and for this reason, the delicious fruit wears the crown decreeing it the Red King.