24K Heirloom Tomatoes & Friends


There are lots of reasons to grow tomatoes; their taste; their beauty and variety; their healthiness. For me it is all of the above, but mostly the emotional satisfaction I receive by growing things well and putting them into the universe. People just love tomatoes. They smile when you mention that you grow them. They smile when they eat them, and they smile when they tell you stories of their parents and grandparents and how they grew them and loved to eat them and their favorite ways of preparing them. When you give someone a great tomato or several, a warm smile and bright eyes are seldom far behind.

And I am not far behind. I will never forget the look on my dad's face, that beautiful smile, when he sat at the kitchen table, bare-chested, as he ate his first serving of the tomato and onion salad he just made from the tomatoes he just picked. Smiles like that were few and far between. From deep within. The kind that makes a person look young. The kind that brightens the eyes and removes creases and fills a room warmly. And I remember how joyful he was in preparing the garden beds and carefully planting the tomato plants. There were not that many, as I recall, but quite enough for our family of five back in the fifties and sixties. My dad planted tomatoes and dahlias. And so do I. The memories of working along side him and of his smile warm my heart still.

And so do my present activities. I love talking to people about their gardens, and what they love about their tomatoes, and what kinds make them happy. I try to make sure I have the plants they like and that they choose plants that are likely to please them. Delivering beautiful tomatoes is great fun, too. At first, we just had a few varieties, which I bought at Lawrence's, a fantastic greenhouse grower in New Bedford. The standards, Big Boy, Better Boy, Early Girl, etc. But then my neighbor, Jason Falk, pointed me to a different world, the world of heirlooms; Brandywine and Mortgage Lifter, as I recall. He helped me build two raised beds for them. And I was off. That was in the mid eighties in North Dartmouth. We would grow six or eight plants, more than enough for us, but somehow the beds always seemed so crowded. And trees kept growing taller and shadier.

After a serious surgery in 2003, things started to change. A different energy and perspective. I found our new house in South Dartmouth when I came here to learn Yoga to rebuild myself. The instructor and her husband, Carol and Doug Sickul designed and built the open Asian style home. I loved it from the moment I stepped in. The walls overlooking the river and fields are glass. Whenever I step into the house, I am invigorated. My spirit soars and everything else disappears. A runway to heaven. A place to inhale the energy and light of this world and cure my soul. And eight acres of a former cattle pasture to create gardens, grow and share. Eighteen months later we moved in, as the last snow of March, 2005 started to fall.

Early on, Jan and I decided on a basic theme for our garden: balance and harmony. Flowers and vegetables together, treating vegetable as flowers, all things of beauty. Jan's brainstorm was to connect the dry stream bed flowing from our front entrance by having it flow as the main path through the garden, down the gentle hill, curving through the various sections to the end where it ponds between two giant boulders and a cedar tree that are natural structural elements we found on arrival. In the center, we designed and had built an Asia style pergola, reflecting our home's design, for resting, eating and gazing, cooled by the prevailing gentle southwest breeze.

There are eleven gardens now, including Jan's shade garden, Samantha's cutting garden, and new garden for our third grandchild, Sylas, Eden Grace's "Garden of Eden," and an esplanade through 150 cedars called Sierra's Cedars, for our second grandchild.  Soon we will recreating a new garden for our fourth grandchild, Jude. We have some fruit and specimen trees, including a beautiful Wisteria tree, the most romantic living element in our garden. Five years ago with the kind assistance of Jim McBratney and Chuck Gespardi of Sylvan Nursery, we built a greenhouse which allows us to grow many tomato and other plants to share in the community. Last year we grew 40 Heirloom varieties, which were the strongest, healthiest and best looking tomato plants we have ever had the pleasure to grow and share. We grew 2000 plants and kept 200 to plant ourselves. We prepare a catalogue, paper and online, so that people can choose what they like, but mostly it is my pleasure to guide them through their selection process. It is a delight! That and delivering the tomatoes themselves.

Next: Selecting Varieties >>>