by Ira Wallace and Ken Bezilla
The arrival of Craig LeHoullier’s new book Epic Tomatoes has us excited and thinking about next summer’s garden trials and tomato tastings. We have big plans to grow many of Craig’s favorites.
Heirloom tomatoes are the stars of a great many backyard vegetable gardens and of our trial gardens for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Each summer we grow 50-75 different tomato varieties for observation and for tasting events. We have Tastings here at Acorn Community Farm, at the Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs, PA, Sept 18-20, 2015, and the largest of all at Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, Sept 11-12, 2015. There we include peppers, melons and more as well as tomato varieties grown by many other local Virginia farms. At Monticello, we usually end up with over 100 things to try.
Our tastings give gardeners and other folks the opportunity to sample so many different flavors, colors, and sizes of tomatoes! Of course there are many of the varieties in our catalog but we also offer ones we are considering adding in the future and ones that local farmers are selling at Farmers Markets and to restaurants. On Thursday, September 10, 2015, our special half day pre-Festival Epic Tomato Workshop and Tasting will feature Craig LeHoullier, author of the newly-released book, Epic Tomatoes and Ira Wallace, author of The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast. All of our 2015 Tastings will highlight varieties featured in Epic Tomatoes.
Craig’s been growing heirloom tomatoes for almost 30 years now in North Carolina, looking for the best tomatoes he can find, and pulling off impressive crops in Raleigh’s heat and humidity. Craig’s always been passionate about heirloom tomatoes. Back in 1993, he introduced the very popular “Cherokee Purple” to the world via Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. (SESE founder Jeff McCormack was skeptical at the time whether it would sell. He worried people would think the fruits looked like bruised meat…) Over the years, Craig’s sent many other tomatoes our way, including Cherokee Green (new this year), Rosella Purple, and OTV Brandywine (named for the Off the Vine heirloom tomato newsletter that Craig and Carolyn Male published in the ’90s).
Epic Tomatoes is truly an epic book. It’s beautifully laid out and full of great photos of luscious tomatoes. Craig writes about the history and characteristics of his favorites. Reading it has us making notes on varieties we’d like to try, and it’s hard to imagine anyone reading this book without grabbing a pen to jot down some new tomatoes to grow and to taste!
Besides being a love song to tomatoes, Epic Tomatoes is also full of good, sensible, practical advice for tomato growers old and new. There are chapters on planning and planting for new growers, tomato diseases, seed saving, and how to breed your own varieties. Craig even gives detailed information on harvesting and storing tomatoes, plus there are many great recipes. His list of 250 (!) favorite varieties organized by color makes an excellent starting place for exploring the wonderful world of tomatoes. Craig’s been growing tomatoes a long time – get the benefit of his hard-won wisdom in time for planning your 2015 garden! For a limited time we include a book plate hand inscribed by Craig LeHoullier with your copy of Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Tomato Varieties.