Friday, December 12, 2014

Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier

Tomatoes and Italians are linked together in the public psyche, that is why I requested a review-copy of this book.  So many classic Italian dishes rely on the sweet, tart, fresh flavor of tomatoes.  In Italy, people who have a bit of land and enough sunshine usually try their hand at growing tomatoes.  Be warned:  once you start growing your own, you will never turn back, as I know from personal experience.   

Epic Tomatoes:  How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time delivers just what it promises, and delivers it with style.  Great creativity was used in the creation of this informative book.  Here is an example of what I'm referring to.  This is part of the book's Table of Contents:

Here is the Table of Contents:
  • Preface and Intro
  • The Origins of Today's Tomato
  • Anatomy of a Tomato
  • Planning and Planting
  • Growing, Maintenance, and Care
  • Harvest Celebration
  • Saving for the Future
  • Breed You Own Tomatoes
  • Q&A
  • Troubleshooting Guide
  • Back material

The author is preaching to the choir in my case.  I have been growing my own tomatoes for years, for the flavor.  Anyone who grows tomatoes, and spends the time and effort needed to grow them well, does it for the flavor.  

The flavor of a real tomato is something people who only purchase them in stores just don't know.  Store-bought tomatoes are picked too soon to have any significant flavor.  The tomatoes need to be unripe to be transported safely.  The author expresses it well:
You may find yourself living without fresh tomatoes between your last harvest of the autumn and the first of the following spring.  You will realize that those round, pinkish red things that are available in the stores bear no resemblance at all to the real tomato, for no other type of homegrown produce so far exceeds in quality that which is purchased.

The author has grown over 1000 varieties of tomatoes over 35 years, so he is qualified to say:
...the "must grow the hybrid" contention was just not true.  The non-hybrids/heirlooms I grew equaled or out-yielded the hybrids in general, with far superior flavors and variety.  And that came with the benefit of being able to save seed for next year's garden.
You are instructed how to save your seeds for the next season, saving money, but you are also encouraged to participate in a large seed exchange program, to get seeds for other tomato varieties for free.

In the 250 pages 250 varieties of tomato are featured with image and description of the tomato's unique qualities.  The 10 tastiest tomatoes are highlighted, so every tomato grower can hit it right with the heirlooms the first time out.

The author provides a summary history of the tomato, but really, he offers everything you ever wanted to know about tomatoes, and then some!  There are even some recipes, along with canning instructions and tips for people who would like to breed their own tomato variety, which turns out to be much easier than it sounds.

If you are inspired by the book to grow your own tomatoes, the author provides a helpful troubleshooting section, and a most often asked questions section.  He even has USA regional growing tips, and tips for Eastern Canada, along with a full Resources section and Index.

This artistically presented, information-packed book is a wonderful gift for any friend or family-member who grows tomatoes, or who wants to grow tomatoes!

The author and I are not the only ones who understand about the quality of homegrown tomatoes.  There is a wonderful song written about them, that captures the enthusiasm of all tomato growers.
Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes.
What would life be without homegrown tomatoes? 
Only two things that money can't buy:  that's true love and homegrown tomatoes...

From the book's description:
Savor your best tomato harvest ever!  Craig LeHoullier, tomato adviser for Seed Savers Exchange, offers everything a tomato enthusiast needs to know about growing more than 200 varieties of tomatoes — from sowing seeds and planting to cultivating and collecting seeds at the end of the season.  He also offers a comprehensive guide to the various pests and diseases of tomatoes and explains how best to avoid them.  No other book offers such a detailed look at the specifics of growing tomatoes, with beautiful photographs and helpful tomato profiles throughout.

Epic Tomatoes is published by Storey Publishing, LLC, publishing books for country living since 1983.

Here are direct links to the book at

Have you never grown tomatoes before?  Here is an informative and beautiful 2 minute video about tomatoes in Italy:

On this book review site I have a review of a wonderful picture book for children that introduces them to homegrown tomatoes by recounting the story of a young Italian boy who helps his grandfather grow tomatoes for family and friends.  

This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, and the author of the cozy-murder-mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.

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