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Monday, August 11, 2008

Wild Boar Farms: These Aren't Your Dad's Tomatoes

This is a supermarket tomato.


jackpot tomato

Round. Red. Boring. You can get them any time of the year at the supermarket (and you should be worried about that).


These are Wild Boar Farms Tomatoes


wild boar farms tomatoes

Multi-colored. Multi-shaped. Flavor like you've never tasted in a tomato before.

Today, we attended the 2008 NORCATT (NORthern CAlifornia Tomato Tasting) in Fairfield, CA. Unlike previous NORCATTs, which featured tomatoes from home gardeners, this event was hosted by Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms and showcased tomatoes grown right there on his farm.

Three Acres of Tomatoes


wild boar farms fairfield

Brad doesn't grow your average supermarket tomato. Sure, he has the popular cherries like Sungold and Sweet 100. But he also grows tastier heirloom varieties like Brandywine and Cherokee Purple. Then several years ago, he started developing his own varieties, ones that were not single-colored but had all sorts of beautiful stripes on them.

Wild Boar Farms "Pink Boar" Tomato


wild boar farms pink boar tomato

Wild Boar Farms Red Zebra Boar Tomato


wild boar farms striped tomato

Brad's passion and commitment is to growing tomatoes with ultimate flavor. He tested over 250 varieties of tomatoes but eventually settled down to just a few dozen varieties, selected for their flavor, which he starts himself from seed and plants on his farm. This year, he's growing 15,000 plants in the rich soils and full sun of Solano County.

15,000 plants may seem like a lot, but Brad is actually a small farmer. He doesn't have a lot of wholesale tomato business, especially since his tomatoes don't look like your typical, supermarket variety red globe. So he sells his tomatoes directly to select local markets and restaurants. While the recent salmonella scare hurt lots of larger tomato growers throughout the state and country, Brad's local, small-farm status actually benefited him. Red globe tomatoes disappeared off of supermarket shelves but savvy East Bay customers could still find Wild Boar Farms tomatoes in their local markets.

He took us out into the field for a private tour of his tomato vines.

Brad of Wild Boar Farms


Some of the nuggets of tomato growing wisdom we learned:

  • With its hot days, cool nights and rich deep topsoil, Solano County in his experience is the best place to grow his tomatoes.
  • Brad plants cover crops like fava beans, vetch and clover over the winter, then tills them under to amend the soil before planting.
  • The tomatoes are under a strict watering regimen: lots of irrigation by drip system in the first few weeks after planting, gradually tapering off to once every three weeks. His theory is, you have to force the plant to drive its roots deep into the soil to find moisture. Too much watering will lead to weak, wimpy plants and, "wimpy plants make wimpy tomatoes." (I couldn't agree more.)
  • He prunes suckers from the lower parts of the vine, which he feels forces the tomato to put more energy into fruit production than leaf and stem growth.
It seems that Brad has found a system that works for him. Wild Boar Farms tomatoes are in demand by restaurants like Chez Panisse and Brix. Yet in all this, Brad remains as down-to-earth and generous as ever.

He even gave us a flat of his best tomatoes to take home with us!

Wild Boar Farms "Pink Berkeley Tie Dye" Tomato


wild boar farms pink berkeley tie dye tomato

Wild Boar Farms "Pork Chop" Tomato


wild boar farms pork chop tomato

Wild Boar Farms "Freckled Child" Tomato


wild boar farms speckled child tomato

Wild Boar Farms Unnamed Plum Tomatoes


wild boar farms unnamed striped plum tomatoes

This year, the tomato tasting event also featured samples of food by Fumé Bistro, a Napa Valley restaurant which utilizes Brad's amazing tomatoes in their dishes. This was seriously good food:

Fumé Bistro Double Pork Burger and Bruschetta with Heirloom Tomato Salad


fume bistro double pork burger and heirloom tomato bruschetta

The "double pork" burger patty was made from ground sirloin, ground pork and bacon. Yum! It was grilled and served on a ciabatta bun with heirloom tomato ketchup and dijon mustard. The heirloom tomato salad used fresh mozzarella and chopped basil.

Fumé Bistro Balsamic and Heirloom Tomato-Marinated Quail


fume bistro balsamic and heirloom tomato marinated quail

The quail pieces were marinated in balsamic vinegar and heirloom tomato juice, then grilled. It was a very sophisticated flavor. Annie tried to get the recipe out of the chef but he kept it secret. (I hope Annie will try and replicate this dish soon!)

Not seen is the excellent summer fruit crisp with fresh whipped cream.

All in all, it was a great event, well worth the drive up from San Jose. I did get to meet Chef John from FoodWishes.com plus his lovely wife. We didn't get to chat much though, so I hope we do get a chance to meet up again.

Aloha, Nate

Find Wild Boar Farms tomatoes at the Grand Lake farmer's market on Saturdays, Village Market and Piedmont Grocery, all in Oakland. Check out his website for a list of restaurants which utilize his wonderful tomatoes.

More pics from the 2008 NORCATT: http://picasaweb.google.com/launate/NORCATT2008

Take a walk with Brad through his tomato forest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksA17-G56X8

Related Posts


$15 Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad for $5
Annie's Top Five Tomato Growing Tips

14 Comments:

olerist1 said...

I would not discount all reds as "boring".

Just as Brad has done with the stripes, there are reds that go way beyond anything created by the commercial world and limits of selection (basis of most heritage varieties).

I hope one day you get to try these gustatory (and somatosensory) experiences Annie.

Keith

ps - dryland farming rocks. If one has not tasted melons grown this way they are truly missing something.

Nate-n-Annie said...

@Keith - Of course, not all reds are boring. (Only supermarket ones!) Annie is growing several "unboring" reds this year: Sakherniy Zeltiy, Russian Annie, Russian #117, German Red Strawberry, Dinner Plate, Grandfather Ashlock, Granny Cantrell's German Red, and Super Italian Paste Tomato. Plus 2 yellows, 3 pinks, 3 greens, 5 blacks, and 4 bicolored. All chosen for their flavor.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Okay, the Pink Berkeley Tie Dye, and those gorgeous plum tomatoes, would be top of my list. The ever-increasing variety of heirlooms available at farmers' markets this year is exciting!

noobcook said...

these tomatoes are exotic (never seen these varieties in singapore) and HUGE! I wish we have more variety here :P

Nate-n-Annie said...

@Lydia - I'm glad you can find heirlooms at your farmer's market. Do try them out and let us know what variety you like!

@Wiffy - If you want to grow some of these yourself, we have seeds!

Chef John said...

Wow, what great shots! It was great to meet you guys also. Enjoy your tomatoes!

Robert said...

Lydia, those are not quite plum tomatoes, they are a little different shaped in reality, the yellow one is more of a true egg, the redder ones vary a tad more. They have not been named yet and I think Brad is still working on them. They are also, interestingly enough, not pastes.

[eatingclub] vancouver || js said...

Those tomatoes are gorgeous!

Nate-n-Annie said...

@Chef John - thanks!

@Robert - thanks for the additional info!

@JS - thank you!

Sweet Bird said...

Oh I wish I had room for that many tomatoes. This tear I've only got a Brandywine, a Pineapple, and a Black Krim.

Nate-n-Annie said...

@Sweet Bird - hey you're doing pretty well!

littlepurpleroom said...

You have seeds/ Oh I want seeds.
I read on a plant swap forum that a member had planted "pork chop" tomatoes. I thought he was making it up (the name not planting them as he had pics of his plants) but then I searched Pork Chop tomatoes and here you are.
I love your blog and I would really love tomato seeds. All I grow over at turnleftatthepigs.blogspot are heirlooms.
So I am off to look around your site to see if you have a place to buy seeds or perhaps e-mail you.
Thanks,
Diane

Nate-n-Annie said...

@littlepurpleroom - Hi Diane, we'd be happy to send you seeds. Find our contact information on the Contact link at the top of the page.

Kalyn said...

How fun, thanks for sharing. I'm going to add your link into my post.