Operation: Tomato

I’ve been reading a lot about tomatoes lately and I am amazed at the fruit’s speedy rise to power. In the early 16th century, nobody in Europe had ever heard about the tomato. It took almost 200 years before Europeans were even eating the darn things, since public opinion held that they were filled with poison. Tomato fever took hold fast and, before long, it was thought to be the healthiest fruit available. Several American entrepreneurs were even making “life-saving” pills out of the darn things!

My personal tomato history lesson started with a book called The Tomato in America, which gives a great history of modern tomato use. It’s a fascinating story, but I wanted a deeper discussion of the ‘golden apple.’ I got what I needed from Arthur Allen’s new book Ripe: The Search for the Perfect Tomato. It covers history, farming politics and genetics.

Now I’ve got tomato fever. I did some research and ordered seeds from one of the most reputable seed sources mentioned in these books, TomatoFest. By the end of this week, I will be planting three varieties of San Marzano. This is all new to me, so it will truly be an adventure. I’ll be posting about my progress and hopefully I’ll end up with something that’s edible. Right now, all I have are six packs of seeds. But you know what they say. You can’t do awesome experiments with urban farming and end up with a sweet bunch of tomatoes without a pack of seeds.


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