Tomatomania The Traveling Tomato Show

 Photo credit:  Jacqueline Andresen

Photo credit:  Jacqueline Andresen

Sitting on my swing set as the summer sun is setting, my dad and I pluck beefsteak tomatoes off the vine from the garden.  Biting into the juicy fruit, we don’t bother with the slicing, the salt, or forks or plates. What remains on the vine will be picked later, then canned for sauce or juiced for future consumption.  For now, it is me, my dad, and the garden’s bounty.  (a tomato memory from my youth)

A Traveling Tomato Show

“If you’re crazy about tomatoes, this is the event for you!” the Tomatomania website read.  I’m not crazy about tomatoes.  I just grew up growing tomatoes in the garden alongside my father, canning them in the kitchen alongside my mother, and eating them fresh from the garden every which way but sideways each and every summer of my youth.  I don’t bother with tomatoes from the market.  They absolutely must come from the garden or at the very least, a farmer’s market.   Is that crazy?  Or am I simply a woman of strong convictions?  You say tomato. I say tomato.

         

        

Child's Play

“It’s just a bunch of tables with plants on them and a bunch of old people looking at them,” described my youngest daughter.  With nary a jumper or face-painting booth in sight no sooner did we arrive did my kids begin counting the minutes until we could leave.  The game changing moment occurred when reading the colorful names and descriptions of heirloom and hybrid varieties.  They searched the tables to find the coolest names and the best descriptions.  Never were they disappointed, with varietal names ranging from Yellow Ping Pong to Yellow Brandywine.  We made it a game to find the best name and the coolest looking tomato photo.  “Oh Mama, let’s get the “Big Rainbow!” cried my eldest.  Then there were the incidentals.   “Look!  They have a calendar!  Can I get a calendar?” demanded the youngest.  Suddenly, Tomatomania was on, kid style. 

 Photo credit:  Jacqueline Andresen

Photo credit:  Jacqueline Andresen

Celebrity Sightings

As I waited in line with my seedlings a man in a blue Tomatomania shirt came through the crowd, parting the line like Moses parted the Red Sea.  He thanked us all for coming and wished us a wonderful growing season.  Such spirit and gratitude gets my attention.  “Is that the man who organizes the event?” I asked a woman in a similar blue shirt.  “Yes, that’s Scott,” she answered.  In true food garden geek colors I asked if he wouldn’t mind coming over for a photo op.  True to his colors, he graciously obliged.  When I told Scott Daigre, leader of tomatomaniacs,  of our school gardens in Mt. Washington Elementary, how each classroom had a garden, and how every student has opportunity to grow and eat what they harvest, his eyes were aglow and his interest peaked. He asked me what varieties I had selected for the kids, how many classes we had, what we were growing, etc.  We became kids ourselves talking gleefully of gardening and more.

 Photo credit:  Jacqueline Andresen

Photo credit:  Jacqueline Andresen

The Road to Tomatomania

In posting this article I realize I’m committing myself to growing these seedlings and then cooking something great with the harvest.  The pressure starts to scare me.  Having missed out on the Grateful Dead tours of the past, what I really want to do is go on tour with the tomato gang.  With kids in tow I missed the lectures and never tasted the tastings.  I wonder if they would let me go on the road with them? 

Knowing the real world (and raising children) may get in the way of my tour plans I may have to resign myself to simply calendaring in the next round of Tomatomania events for next weekend.  If you’re inclined to the “crazy” for tomatoes, I suggest you do the same.  Be sure to check their website for specific times and dates at each of the following locations:

South Coast Botanic Gardens in Palos Verdes, CA

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens in Claremont, CA

Grow Native Nursery Grow in Brentwood, CA