Laytonville tomato tasting
September 22. I wouldn’t have gone to this week’s Laytonville Farmers Market except it’s the annual tomato tasting day. Marbry the market goddess supplied a table, shade umbrella, cutting board, toothpicks, containers, and a big stand-up easel for the list of tomato varieties where tasters could cast their votes. All the vendors who had tomatoes contributed samples. I set up my produce next to the sampling table so I could keep track of both at once. We set out containers of tomato chunks with name cards and an intact example. I forgot to take photos.
The first person to stop by said he already had a favorite, Black Cherry. Marbry and I looked at each other like, Is he crazy? We’d both brought Black Cherry, but she’d debated whether to bother, and so had Lin, who picked ours. I grew it in a privileged seed-worthy spot this year but have been so underwhelmed with its performance and taste that I’d decided not to save the seed after all. Were we surprised when taster after taster added stars by its name on the voting chart so that by the end of the afternoon Black Cherry was far and away the winner – along with Striped German, which was not such a surprise, as it is such a big beautiful odd tomato, striped rose and yellow outside and all the way through, and with a flavor tasters tended to lapse into wine-speak over – a hint of pepper, with a hickory smoke aftertaste, etc.
It was the Monday after Earthdance, held just a few miles up the road, so 5,000 hung-over and/or still tripping urban tribal mainly white people with dreadlocks and arty tattoos and scant bits of handcrafted faux-postapocalyptic clothing were passing by, heading back toward the Bay Area or wherever. Many of them stopped. Many tasted tomatoes. Besides the winners, we had Tennessee Heirloom, Asimina, Mortgage Lifter, Brandywine, Cherokee Chocolate, Jaune Flamme, Mountain Gold, Sungold, Sun Sugar, Chadwick Cherry, and Sweet Baby Girl. Every tomato was someone’s favorite. Marbry theorized that once Striped German and Black Cherry accumulated a few more votes than the rest, the power of suggestion boosted them into the superstar realm. How else to explain Black Cherry? By now even I am persuaded – maybe I’ll save seeds after all.
That Pacific chorus frog is perched on one of the winning tomatoes – yes, a Black Cherry, only a bit over an inch across.