Taste Testing the Aerogarden Tomatoes. Aerogarden VS Grocery Store!

It’s winter in Canada and I’m eating tomatoes that I pick every day from my kitchen counter.  They’re growing right next to my pepper grinder actually.  HOW WEIRD IS THAT???!!!

Alrighty, it’s winter and I’m eating tomatoes!  Which is a very strange feeling because I don’t normally eat tomatoes in the winter.  Unusual, I know.  Normally I can’t say enough good things about the taste of sawdust soaked in water.  I guess I just don’t like it in tomato. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

To combat sawdust tomato mouth I bought an Aerogarden last year.  If you don’t know what that is or how it works you should read this post that I wrote a while ago.

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A little over 3 months ago I planted tomato seeds in my Aerogarden.  This is what it looks like now.

It’s bursting with tomatoes.  BURSTING I SAY!  (I’m being pretty deliberate about the actual word “bursting” for a reason.)

I started counting how many ripe tomatoes I had on this one plant – yes that’s one little plant – but stopped at 50 because I was getting bored.  And that’s just the ripe ones, there are manyyyyyyyy more that still need to ripen.

But this story wasn’t smooth sailing.  Like any good story it has a beginning, a middle, an end AND a moment of surprise climactic tension!

I’m going about my business one day (working, writing, taking pictures, wondering if turbans a la Alexis Carrington on Dynasty will ever make a comeback)  when my niece shows up at my door. She’s decided she’s going to make a point of making time for visiting more this year.

She came in walked around, had a seat, talked a bit and on the way out reached her hand towards my Aerogarden tomatoes to snatch one.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At this point everything in my world went into slow motion.

Her hand, poised right over the nearest tomato, fingers dangling just a breath over it – stopped.

She blinked.

I blinked.

We stared at each other frozen in position, not moving, not even breathing.

Me:  Noyoucan’tIneedtotakepicturesofthatforaposttomorrow!

Her:  (blink)

Me:  don’teatthetomatoesdon’teatthetomatoesthey’reforapost.  (as her fingers drop a hair, grasp the tomato, pluck it and pop it in her mouth)

Me:  (staring incredulously at her)

Her:   I don’t know why I did that. (mouth full, tomato seeds burbling out of her lips)

Me:  I SAID NOT TO!  YOU HEARD ME!  YOU LOOKED RIGHT AT ME!

Her:  I know.  It’s like I was in a trance.

Then she zips her coat up, turns on her heels and calls over her shoulder as she’s walking out the door, “Those tomatoes aren’t very good, they have no flavour!” and slams the door behind her.

You’ll be surprised to hear that my niece is still walking the earth.  I can’t comment on whether or not her fingers are broken.

I didn’t want her to eat a tomato because I wasn’t eating any of the tomatoes so the picture I was taking the next day would be perfect.  In case you didn’t get that from my outline of the exchange.

So if the tomatoes on the plant look unbalanced in the photos you can blame her.

Tasteless.  That was her analysis.  Well she’s ruined the photo now, I might as well try one, I figured.  I ate a tomato.  And I wouldn’t describe it as tasteless but I wouldn’t describe it as delicious either.  It was adequate.

So I ran to the grocery store to buy some grocery store cherry tomatoes and did a comparison taste test.  Here’s how it went down.

Aerogarden VS Grocery Store tomatoes


Aerogarden tomatoes (on the left of photo)

Thinner skin, thinner wall, MUCH juicier.  Bursting with juice.

cost:  I’m going to call them free even though an Aerogarden is an expensive initial investment.

Grocery Store tomatoes (on the right of photo)

Thicker skin, thicker wall, mealier, VERY sweet.

cost: about $4 for a small container.


This all makes sense since grocery store tomatoes are bred to ship well.  That means, thicker skins, thicker walls and less juice.  A  homegrown heirloom tomato traditionally has a thinner skin and more juice which makes them kind of explode in your mouth.  That isn’t a quality that would do well for a tomato that’s being trucked and thrown around from producer to shipping company to grocery store.

 

Verdict?  The grocery store tomatoes tasted better, lol.  BUT they weren’t as convenient, they weren’t as fun and they were a variety that’s bred specifically for sweetness.

Plan going forward?  I’m going to start another plant with one of MY tomato seeds that I know produces flavourful tomatoes.   Something like a Black Cherry maybe.  And I plannnnnnn to do it this summer.  So I can track the side by side progress of two identical tomato varieties. One grown outside, and one grown in an Aerogarden.

Just for fun.

Because that’s how I have fun when I’m not fashioning turbans and breaking fingers.

→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←

 

42 Comments

  1. Marna says:

    I can’t wait to hear about the comparisons on the inside and outside versions! 🙂

  2. Noreen McKechnie says:

    After your column about the aerogarden I bought one for my husband, just so we could have fresh herbs all winter. It has become a daily amusement watching the plants trying to take over the earth!

  3. Traciwithaneye says:

    I just bought an aerogarden and so am excited to see you have one too! Mine is growing herbs right now but I want to try tomatoes next!

    • Karen says:

      It’s amazing! I’d better start picking tomatoes though because it’s putting all its energy into ripening them instead of forming flowers for new tomatoes. ~ karen!

  4. Lesley on the Mountain says:

    Karen, I see you have 1 tomato plant, and is that just 1 basil plant? I have mine just starting to really take off, 3 weeks in, with 1 tomato, 2 basil, and a curly parsley; I hope I haven’t overdone it, EEK!

  5. lisamc says:

    Tasteless tomatoes from an aero garden!?!? I am shocked. (Here is where an adorable little emoji with a knowing yet lovingly conspiratorial wink should be inserted but the emojis on my phone annoy me and don’t look like that so just picture it.)
    I felt so bad that I made a kill joy comment on your first Aerogarden post that I was really rooting for you and the tiny frankentomates. I vow to be 110 percent supportive of your continued experimentation. (My aerogarden unit gets used for grow light overflow. )
    Anyway. The tomatoes look very pretty, are convenient and most salad tomatoes in winter are only decorative anyway. I mean, they were so pretty they pulled your normally sweet and compliant(yeah, I’m making this up) niece into a trance!
    How’s that for supportiveness!

    • Karen says:

      Ha! Well, I wouldn’t describe them myself as completely tasteless. They just aren’t as strong as a garden tomato. Having said that, I picked one yesterday and ate it straight off the plant and it was much stronger and sweeter. I realized it was out of water and wonder if the lack of water helped to concentrate flavours. That’s actually the case with garden tomatoes. Lack of watering can actually make them better. So that might be a bit of an Aerogarden trick to think about! ~ karen

  6. LeeAnne Bloye says:

    Not sure if this is true or not but I heard that like grapes, tomatoes need to be stressed to taste their best. Saw it on some show where Stephen Fry (at least I think it was him) went somewhere in Europe and a very experienced tomato grower and chef(?) said that. I remembered it – okay sort of remembered – because it made sense. Since grasses store the energy they get from light as glucose (or something like that) when they are stressed. The then use it to grow like mad when they are no longer stressed. I thought the old guy in the show might be right since maybe grapes and tomatoes become sweeter when stressed.
    Probably doesn’t make for a pretty plant though.

    • Karen says:

      Yep, that’s absolutely true. I actually just left another comment about that. Garden tomatoes often taste better if they lack water when they’re ripening because it concentrates their flavours. I’m sure there are other reasons stressing can produce a better tasting tomato. ~ karen!

  7. Lavada Shaft says:

    The tomato plant is gorgeous. Would NEVER have known tomatoes were missing had you not said so (still cannot see where they’re missing).

    So…a basil/tomato/Maille salad?

  8. Mary W says:

    Makes me wonder how being in a nursing home can possibly compete with being at a home. Imagine never going outside, breathing fresh air, feeling our sun shinning on our balding head, smelling cut grass, or listening to kids playing. Your inside plants (I predict) will still not be the same as those grown outside. So much for living on Mars once we destroy this planet! You should make a prediction game for us to play along with your experiment.

    • judy says:

      I agree with your point of our destroying the Planet,Some ad is always flashing beautiful pictures of the star spangled sky,where many of what seem to be suns like ours are actually Galaxies of suns,billions of suns and now we know that many of them have planets. So for those who fervently believe that the Earth is so unusual,precious and perfect, its fate can not be affected by its’ surface animals. Whole galaxies are sucked into black holes and suns go nova and burn out. Our Universe destroys and creates. We need to be on the creative side of that equation. We are kindergarteners in our arrogance and unless we stop using the filth of the earth-black dirty coal,and greasy oil and convert to clean energy- sunshine,wind and the force of ocean waves etc. we may end as a promising species capable of great beauty of art,music, literature and a common decency that has taken us from primitive beings to an impressive technology- but too soon old too late smart.

  9. Ella says:

    Wow, I’ve been waiting for this post …but the one I am most anxious for is where you show us step by step how to make our own (much less expensive) seed pods. In the meantime, I really really want an Aerogarden….

  10. Lori says:

    I am ALSO waiting for the seed pod post!

    After your last post, I immediately put the Aerogarden on my wishlist…and got it for my birthday! I set it up immediately (12/31), and we’ve already had basil, curly parsley, and dill to eat. I’ve got mint coming along, too, and another (Thai?) basil plant , as well. One seed pod hasn’t sprouted, but 5 out of 6 is pretty good, I figure. My husband made me a couple of ceramic gnomes, and they live among the plants. 🙂

  11. Joyce says:

    Well, poop! I was expecting just the opposite…tomatoes so wonderful that house breakers would only take the carefully plucked aero-maters,
    Eating the family silver and Rottweiler behind.
    A different variety should make all the difference

  12. Merri says:

    I’m with Noreen. We are growing herbs on our counter and I love to check out their progress every day. The convenience of being able to pick fresh and add to a dish was the main draw.

  13. JosephineTomato says:

    We have had much better success with hot peppers, specifically jalapeños. They have been growing all winter and it is so convenient to go pick one for a recipe. They are a little smaller than grocery variety but full of flavor and spice. The amount produced has been tremendous.

  14. Monica Pollak says:

    And here I thought I was unique in going to buy my own Aerogarden. I think Aerogarden should send you more growers test! I too am following the growth of my herbs with the awe of a 4 year old! It’s my kind of gardening where there is no dirt, it tells me when to feed it. I’m about 4 weeks in and my Genovese basil is spectacular but all the other herbs are catching up. I’d be very interested in how you do with making your own seed pods. It looks easy enough?

  15. Sherrill says:

    I have tried lots of varieties of tomatoes in my aerogarden. Try growing a small determinate tomato like Totem. It is a nice small sweet tomato, only gets about 30inches, and can be kept smaller for the aerogarden. It takes a bit longer than the tomato seeds that come with the aerogarden, 70days. But worth it.

  16. Sabina says:

    I have absolutely no counter space for one of these and it makes me have Aero-Garden-Envy…

  17. Tess G says:

    That’s it I’m going to plant some tomato seeds in my Aerogarden too. I have some blank ones I just have to figure out how to block out the light on the extra holes again. I have a friend who grows the weirdest tomatoes from seed. I’ll see if she will part with a couple of mini-odd-balls-striped ones.

  18. Lori says:

    Your Aerogarden progress is giving me hope and making me so anxious for mine! Even if they aren’t as good as garden grown tomatoes, I think the convenience of not having to go to the store for them will make it worth it for me!

    I got an Aerogarden as a Christmas gift that arrived about a week into January. I went against recommendations and planted a tomato along with salad greens and a basil. The salad greens are growing like weeds! I’m so excited – it’s nearly time to harvest some leaves. I figure I will thin the tomato (there are 3 sprouted) and put them in pots near the Aerogarden where they can take advantage of the light-spill.

  19. Anna Frick says:

    Aerogarden doesn’t say what variety their tomato seed pods are. I ordered Tiny Tim from West Coast Seeds and put them in the grow your own pods 32 days ago. My tomato plants (2) are now 7″ tall and bushy. Quite a lot of flowers! I also have cilantro from West Coast Seeds and the parsley that came with the garden. I’m afraid I’ve overpacked my 6 pod garden! The cilantro has hated (dry, crispy edges to the leaves) the dry indoor air in my apartment, so since 2 days I have a humidifier going beside the Aerogarden and its much happier and has delicate frond-y leaves.
    I’m really wondering if I need to prune the Tiny Tim plants as they are determinate. Seed company write ups say not to – but they are not thinking about indoor gardening!
    Anyway – I love gardening in the depth of winter! Makes the snowbanks and -20 much more bearable.

  20. Jackie Gorski says:

    Hi Karen, thanks for reminding me that I have an Aerogarden and should use it…..lol

    Anyway, do you have indoor pets? I have cats, and they like to ‘bother’ the Aerogarden. Any ideas on how I can have the Aerogarden in a living area but keep the fricking cats away from it?
    I thought of a chicken-wire enclosure….

    • Renee Ryz says:

      You can try a Ssscat! can. It is a small can of compressed air (replaceable) with a motion detector top that will spray a PFFFT! of air out when a kitty crosses by it. It startles them between the noise & puff of air. I have used it with success. The only 2 issues are 1) When you forget it is there, trigger it and scare the crap out of yourself and 2) if it is in a dark area at night, it cannot pick up kitty movement so easy. Just an idea!

      • Jackie says:

        That will work for four of them, but NOT for #5: Grace is 19, stubborn, and not easily startled. I got one of those Ssssscat devices to keep her off the dining room table. She laughed at it.

        • Martina says:

          Have you tried tin foil around the plant? Of course it only works if they haven’t gone deaf and at 19…well…good luck!

  21. Chris says:

    If your winter aerogarden crop isn’t tasty enough, you might try dehydrating them with a few sprinkles of garlic and herbs on them. Then you can happily eat them like candy for the rest of the winter, or get a bit more of a flavor punch on those dreary winter salads.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with the AG. I bought one, but have yet to set it up and use it. I really should right now, since nothing is growing locally except moss and mud puddles (I’m in WA state, USA). So I’m anticipating your follow-up on this thread. Be sure and invite your niece for follow-up taste-testing, if her fingers have healed in time!!

  22. Katt Hunsaker says:

    I did this a few years back before they updated the garden from black to the nice space-agey silver. I found the same results. Then I did 2 gardens with my seeds and found that the garden that I had 2 tomatoes and one basil worked best and the trick that worked even better is that I hand pollinated them (I like to f with everything and cannot let well enough alone).

    • Karen says:

      Oh yes, I hand pollinated the tomatoes. I wrote about that in my original post on it. I definitely don’t lack for tomatoes, lol. I’m very curious to see how the same variety compares when grown inside and out. ~ karen!

  23. Renee Ryz says:

    You can try a Ssscat! can. It is a small can of compressed air (replaceable) with a motion detector top that will spray a PFFFT! of air out when a kitty crosses by it. It startles them between the noise & puff of air. I have used it with success. The only 2 issues are 1) When you forget it is there, trigger it and scare the crap out of yourself and 2) if it is in a dark area at night, it cannot pick up kitty movement so easy. Just an idea!

  24. Hannah says:

    My aerogarden basil has taken OVER the next two sections. It’s made for a LOT of excellent pizza. I didn’t think it was even possible to overpower mint, to be honest.

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