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FOOD + FUN | Summer Tomatoes in Winter

TRENDING NOW – The typical winter tomato is a sorry imitation of the summer version. It’s bred for traits like firmness and shelf life rather than flavor, picked green, shipped thousands of miles, and as tasteless as raw tofu by the time it reaches your table. But now Chicago-area foodies can get summer-fresh tomatoes year-round at local Whole Foods, Jewel and Sam’s Club stores courtesy of MightyVine – a company that grows tomatoes in a 15-acre hydroponic greenhouse 80 miles west of Chicago and delivers them to area stores as little as 24 hours after they’ve been picked.

Founded by former Glencoe resident Jim Murphy and headed by Chicago’s Gary Lazarski, MightyVine built its first 7.5-acre glasshouse in 2015 and doubled the space last year to meet rising demand in local grocery stores and restaurants. The expansion doubled production to about 500,000 pounds of tomatoes a month in peak growing conditions. The company’s tomatoes are fully vine-ripened and picked when they’re deep red, just when their flavor peaks. The two varieties grown in the climate-controlled greenhouse – Forticia and Robinio slicing and cherry tomatoes, respectively – were developed by MightyVine’s Dutch growing partners for taste rather than transportability and are available in North America exclusively from MightyVine.

The growing process and local delivery also provide environmental advantages including a 90% water savings over field-grown tomatoes, reduced pesticide use through integrated pest management, and reduced carbon emissions because of the shorter transportation distance

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