As if we weren’t swimming in tomatoes already from the bounty we had received from our neighbor, Hitesh informs me that there is an Heirloom Tomato Harvest Festival going on in town on Sunday the 17th. How could I resist? I couldn’t. I dragged the girls with me and headed to downtown to check out their Heirloom Tomato Festival.
What a unique experience!
First, let me say that my neighbor Jim’s tomatoes could easily be in this competition, I’ll have to ask him to submit his tomatoes next year.
Heirloom Tomato Festival. Los Gatos, California
2017 is the first year the newly formed World Tomato Society is hosting an Heirloom Tomato Festival here in Los Gatos. I hope it’s first of many to come. This was a fun and relaxing excursion to check out the world’s favorite fruit – tomatoes 🍅🍅! Not just tomatoes, but heirloom tomatoes.
What are heirloom tomatoes?
I did a little tutorial on heirloom tomatoes last year when I posted my recipe for Heirloom Tomatoes with Salt and Pepper. Let me share with you again what makes an heirloom tomato.
There are many definitions and explanations for heirloom plants and tomatoes, I found this one from Burpee.com to be the easiest to understand: “Heirlooms are old-fashioned vegetables and flowers that have been passed down through the generations. Heirloom seeds are old-time favorites that produce plants with the same traits planting after planting, season after season, generation after generation. Some heirlooms date back 100 years or more.”
Heirloom tomato seeds that date back 100 years? Pretty cool! This is exactly what the newly formed World Tomato Society based in Los Gatos, California is planning on doing – having a seed vault where heirloom seed companies can preserve their seeds.
Heirloom Tomatoes vs. Hybrids. What’s the Difference?
I got a newsletter from one of our local nurseries Yamagami’s Nursery last year with a little article about heirloom tomatoes and this is how they explain the difference betweetn heirloom tomatoes and regular tomatoes.
Grafted Tomatoes vs. Hybrids:
“Grafted tomato plants are becoming more and more popular as people discover how much more vigorous certain varieties can be when grafted onto a sturdy rootstock. Many modern tomatoes have been hybridized to include disease resistance. That’s what those letters (VFN) refer to at the end of a name like “Early Girl VFN”. The trouble is that certain qualities/traits have been bred out at the same time.
There is a gene for “green shoulders” that has been carefully bred out over the years. Recently it was discovered that that gene is linked to rich flavor – oops! This is one of the many reasons that heirloom tomatoes are so popular. It is the flavor! But the plant itself can be wimpy, especially in our clay soils. Grow heirloom tomatoes for their flavor, that is their main characterisitic.” Yamagami’s Nursery. Cupertino, California
A Festival for a Good Cause:
According to San Jose Mercury News, the newly formed World Tomato Society the sponsor of the festival is dedicated to celebrating all things tomato. Their plans include building a world-class campus in Los Gatos, California that would include a tomato teaching facility, a tomato history museum, a seed vault, and a garden amphitheater for viewing and educating people about farming techniques such as biodynamic Demeter farming, which is a step above organic gardening.
The society is already working with more than 25 heirloom seed companies to preserve their seeds. They also have plans to have a kitchen classroom that teaches “old style” cooking, with the objective of bringing experts from around the world to teach how they cook and preserve their old techniques.
Festival for a good cause
But creating a world-class museum and seed vault takes money and funding. To reach their goals the society hosted their first ever Heirloom Tomato Festival this past Sunday with an event that features a Guinness World Record challenge for the most tomato varieties displayed in one location.
The current record was set in 2015 in New York’s Times Square, where 135 varieties were displayed, but the society’s new president Helen Pastorino said she hoped to break that record with over 300 tomato varieties on display at this festival in Los Gatos!!!
According to Pastorino: “For the Guinness record we have to lay all the tomatoes out with their scientific and common names, just to confirm we broke the record.”
Folks, I think Los Gatos broke the world record! I counted how many tomatoes were on display and there were way over 250 tomatoes – maybe even over 300 varieties of tomatoes on display. Pretty darn great!
Varieties of heirloom tomatoes at the festival.
We saw some very unique heirloom tomatoes at this competition, with some fancy names like Godzilla, Chocolate Striped Tomato, Cherokee Chocolate, and Chinese Paste. I’ve never seen so many varieties of tomatoes in one place, ever!
The gnarly yellow looking tomato in the photo was called Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom and was so big that we could see it from over 20 feet away.
Judging in progress
There were judges here at the festival judging what I’m not sure, but they looked pretty serious with their clipboards and pen and papers.
This was a tomato festival afar all, which meant there were plenty of local restaurants and cafes selling tomato inspired appetizers and bites.
The festival was being held at the town square near the local Farmer’s Market. I had to stop by and pick up a few veggies and fruits.
A white picket fence and a tomato garden on a straw hat?
Check it out folks, one of the volunteers had the coolest tomato hat on! I’ve never seen anything like this! She said one of her friends made the hat for her. Notice the heirloom seed packets on the other side of the hat? This had to be the coolest hat I have ever seen!
There was even a tomato truck of the old days.
There was a Dodge “Tomatr” truck loaded with hundreds of heirloom tomatoes on display. The President of The Tomato Society Ms. Pastorino explained how she wanted to display something that gives a throwback to the old days when as she explained: “There used to be hundreds of these trucks tooling around when this area was known as the Valley of the Heart’s Delight.”
More photos of this beautiful festival
We came home with some giant heirloom tomatoes of our own 🍅😋.
For more information and to read about the mission of the newly formed World Tomato Society check out these links World Tomato Society World Tomato Society makes Los Gatos home base, aims for Guinness World Record
A Tomato a Day Keeps the Doctor Away.🍅