The last weekend in August we get the opportunity to play with our food at Heritage Farm.
As part of our work here we, the lucky few, get to take part in taste evaluations; no evaluation is more anticipated and beloved than our Annual Tomato Tasting.
Each summer we open the event up to the community and invite locals (and even not-so-locals) to visit our farm, tour the gardens, and sample the wide variety of tomatoes growing in any given year.
Every year we worry about rain - there hasn't been enough for the tomatoes to grow or there's been too much for the tomatoes to grow. Every year we worry about heat - it's too cold for tomatoes to grow in the day or it's too hot for them at night and the blossoms are dying.
Every year we panic, thinking that there won't be enough tomatoes, that this will be the year that all is lost and the crowds are disappointed.
And every year we prove ourselves wrong.
See, that's the amazing thing about diversity - each year that we grow, we're going to get a harvest. There may be crop failures, there may be droughts, and there may be cold and wet springs that delay our planting by 3 weeks.
But with so many tomatoes to choose from, so many varieties growing every summer, as Ian Malcolm would say: "Life, uh, finds a way."
We have over 70 varieties of tomatoes growing at Heritage Farm in Decorah, IA this year. Not all of them set an edible fruit for the tasting, not all of them could be used because we need to harvest every last seed from the fruit in order to keep that variety healthy and viable into the next generation. We've felt incredibly lucky to sample the fruits of over 50 different varieties this past weekend - and what's more, we get to share those tomatoes with you!
Tomatoes have one of the simplest processes for saving seed from your home garden and the ease of this process has resulted in a multitude of flavors, shapes, sizes, and growth habits. There's sure to be a tomato to suit any gardener's needs or tastes. Seed Savers Exchange keeps thousands of tomato varieties preserved for future generations through our seed bank and through our Exchange program where growers across the nation share and swap seeds.
The thought that you might one day face the calamity of only having a supermarket tomato, the kind that's always in the store be it July or January, drives us to grow these seeds out and share them. The thought that one day that supermarket tomato might just meet a season it can't survive - there isn't enough rain or there's too much rain, there isn't enough heat or there's too much heat - that's why it's important to preserve all these varieties.
With your help, we'll keep the seeds safe. And every now and then when August rolls around, we'll have a great big party to celebrate.
So here's to tomatoes, be they green, pink, yellow, or black, and here's to this year's favorites!
The Results of Seed Savers Exchange's 9th Annual Tomato Tasting:
Winner of the Tasting in 2010, this little tomato is still an obvious favorite amongst the crowds. Originally from Seed Savers Exchange member J.T. Sessions, this refreshingly tart cherry tomato produces heavily even in cold and wet growing conditions. Looking for a cherry tomato resistant to late blight? Studies show that Lemon Drop is a great option.
This family heirloom from Ruby Arnold Of Greeneville, TN was introduced to Seed Savers Exchange in 1993. Large beefsteak fruits ripen to green with a hint of yellow at the bottom and can weigh up to one pound!
When it comes to packing a ton of tomato flavor into a small package, nothing compares to the Mexico Midget tomato! Dark red cherry tomatoes are perfect for snacking or salads and produce throughout the season. This tomato pulled in almost twice as many votes as the nearest competitor!
Support our work by taking home some tomato seeds today!
Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization located in Decorah, Iowa, with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.