Safeway is running ads declaring that their tomatoes are “robust,” a word that makes me think of strength and resilience, two qualities that should have nothing to do with burstingly juicy red orbs. These characteristics, however, are ridiculously common in tomatoes sold in the United States. Tomatoes need to be robust in order to make the long journeys required for year-round, nationwide availability, and so most are picked when green (and rock hard), put into storage, and when needed, gassed to change their color to something close to red. Of course, an alternative meaning of robust is full-bodied or hearty, attributes rarely found in grocery store tomatoes, especially out of season.
I rarely buy tomatoes out of season because they just aren’t all that good. But I suspect the ones I get with meals out year-round are almost always of the “gassed” variety.