Even as a bitter cold front is keeping the temperature in the single digits, I am thinking about warmer days. You see, this is the time of year that seed catalogs arrive and I spend winter nights huddled under a comforter, gazing at jewel-toned heirloom vegetables, ordering seeds, and counting the days until the last frost.
It’s fitting then, that I just finished reading Tim Stark’s book, Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer. The writer turned consultant, turned farmer and writer, tells of his own slippery slope from using scrap lumber in a dumpster to build a germination rack, then starting tomato plants indoors in a New York apartment, to his full-on obsessive slide into tackling organic heirloom tomato farming on the land surrounding his boyhood home.
Stark, you see, is a “Tomato Person.” To be a tomato person, it takes an equal mix of hard work, tenacity and more than a little bit of crazy. Tomato people work until one a.m. and rise at three-thirty a.m. to go to market. They face drought and hardship and bankruptcy, then start anew the next season as if the losses and difficulty never occurred.
Indeed, should you ever stand at the farmers market and dismay over paying seven dollars a pound for heirloom tomatoes, read this book. We should all know how our food was produced, who produced it, and perhaps we should also know just how hard it was to grow it.
Stark gives richness to the characters in his life, including himself, as he documents the good and bad of raising those “ugly,” tasty, tantalizing tomatoes. The flow of the book is not flawless, there are some bulges here and there and overlap there. The book, just like the tomatoes, is full of color, unique and to be fully enjoyed for its own imperfect beauty. Read, and then go hug your tomato farmer.
- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Broadway; 1 edition (July 15, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0767927060