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Taste Test: Canned tomatoes

For many of us, buying canned tomatoes is kind of a hereditary thing. We tend to buy the brands that our mothers and grandmothers used. Who has the time to try all those canned tomatoes on the shelf? Taster's Choice panelists took up the challenge and tasted 10 brands of canned, whole tomatoes from local grocery stores. The results were not great, but judges allowed that the winners would all be enhanced in a simmering sauce or other recipe where the flavors can blend. Some of the worst tomatoes were compared to the Hindenburg disaster and "newborn hamsters with a bad sunburn."

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent

Product/Score (out of 100) Hunt's Organic/57 Hunt's /50 Contadina /48
How'd it look? Firm like an Italian plum tomato. Fluffy. Not perfect looking. Very red. "Just right," said one judge. He also said the tomatoes looked freshly peeled. Very large, "like a sperm whale," said one panelist. He liked the bright color as well.
Judges' comments The taste is superb, even for a canned tomato, said a judge who preferred the seedless texture of the organic tomatoes. Another said they were sweet, almost as if sugar was added to the can. The organic tomatoes were fluffy, too. One panelist compared them to a down pillow. He described the texture as "soft and inviting." They have real tomato taste and don't even need the whole day on the stove to be appealing, said one judge, who ate the entire sample. The other judges were less convinced of the Hunt's flavor; they said Hunt's was too weak and a bit watery. "This would make your sauce smooth," said one panelist. "It's just got a good tomato flavor." Two judges said the tomatoes were mushy, but they weren't complaining.
Would they buy? Two of the four judges said yes. Two judges said yes. Two judges said yes.
Shopping information Widely available. $2.29 for a 28-ounce can from Publix. Widely available. $2.19 for a 28-ounce can from Publix. Widely available. $1.58 for a 28-ounce can from Wal-Mart.
Also sampled: Nature's Place ($2.19 for 28 ounces from Publix, 24 points); Publix ($1.29 for 28 ounces, 45 points); Dei Fratelli ($1.49 for 28 ounces from Publix, 36 points); GFS (Gordon Food Service) Marketplace ($3.49 for a 6-pound can, 34 points); Great Value (84 cents for 28 ounces from Wal-Mart); Muir Glen ($1.98 for 28 ounces from Wal-Mart, 39 points); and Hannaford ($1.19 for 28 ounces from Sweetbay, 43 points).

Panelists: Panelists were: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Anu You Institute; and consumer/foodie John Hehn, owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail them to Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to

Taste Test: Canned tomatoes 10/07/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 7, 2008 4:30am]
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