Reinvention of the Humble Tomato Tasting

As seed savers, we understand that growing, harvesting, and sharing seeds is the gateway toward claiming ownership of our food supply – instead of settling for one type of tomato in the grocery store you can literally grow whatever type of tomato your heart desires.

In growing whatever your heart desires, you start to gain discernment, and can own choosiness in how you eat and exactly what.

Tomato Seed Saving
Tomato Seed Saving

Why should people care about saving heirloom varieties?

We could try to convince them with an intellectual argument, explaining how the monoculture of the supermarket produce aisle is the result of agribusiness, not agriculture; the result of breeding for pesticide resistance and shelf life, not flavor and suitability for local growth and distribution. But in the end the proof is in the pudding.

There is no substitute for experiencing firsthand the flavor of a garden-fresh local variety and the richness of heirloom polyculture.

Harvested Tomatoes
Harvested Tomatoes

On Labor Day weekend, Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) hosts its annual Tomato Tasting event, drawing upwards of 1,000 people to come and marvel at the incredible wealth of flavors, textures and form inherent with tomato diversity. Heritage varieties from SSE’s Collection are on experiential display, inviting visitors to interact with these rare fruits—many of which are openly available through the Online Seed Exchange.

Due to the popularity of our on-site Tomato Tasting, and the wild success of last year’s Apple Tasting event in Des Moines, we had the idea to hit the road with our tomatoes. As we began developing plans for a Tomato Tasting Block Party at the Tiny Diner in Minneapolis, we got inspired to expand beyond our initial vision for an off-site outreach effort. We saw potential to let the appreciation of heirloom varieties go hand in hand with locally based seed stewardship.

SSE partnered with Koby Jeschkeit-Hagan of Seed Sages, who rallied a group of participant growers and provided them season-long instruction on how to properly save seed from tomatoes. Collection Curator Tor Janson selected thirty tomato varieties from SSE’s Preservation Collection—many of them native to Minnesota—and Greenhouse Manager Amy Holmgren started the seeds. In May we sent the grown transplants to Koby in Minneapolis who distributed them to her network of 25 urban farmers and gardeners.

We were on our way to having extra tomatoes for our tomato tasting while also providing support for the training of new seed stewards working with varieties directly tied to their region.

Tomato Tasting at Seed Savers Exchange
Tomato Tasting at Seed Savers Exchange

A tasting offers direct exposure for individuals to generate new stories with rare and often endangered varieties.

In order to sell people on the importance of this work, we must make it directly meaningful in their lives.

Tastings are one very effective way of bringing people into the fold; at a tasting you can make the abstract as tangible as the sharp sweetness of a ripe tomato.

Join us at Heritage Farm for the 9th Annual Seed Savers Exchange Tomato Tasting on Saturday, August 30th.


Join us at Tiny Diner in Minneapolis for a Tomato Tasting on Sunday, August 31st.