It's not often someone will share a tale of their late grandfather's clandestine past, but I'm sure glad that my friend did share hers. What a story!
Last autumn my friend gave me a bag of her home grown tomatoes. And she told me they were grown from seeds from her dad. Last year's tomato crop was a good one, so, tasty as they were, I put them into the fruit bowl next to our own bumper crop and didn't think too much more about them.
This year was different. Summer just didn't play ball and it's been too mild produce anything much more than a meagre crop of mealy tasting tomatoes. I gladly accepted another bag of my friend's tomatoes when she offered.
After one bite I was in heaven. Here, was a perfect round red tomato full of incredible flavour. When everyone else's tomatoes were as bland as soggy paper. How did she manage it? I was curious of their provenance and after some prodding she divulged their history.
Seems some years back, her grandfather was a market gardener on the outskirts of a city that shall remain nameless. As successful as his own garden was, her pop, as he was known, coveted his neighbours tomatoes. Spied through the fence, they were unlike any tomato bush he had seen, incredibly prolific, growing on strong thick stalks, almost like tree trunks and each plant producing masses of perfect red tomatoes. The neighbour was an old Italian fellow, who had developed this cultivar over the years and was very proud of it. But he wouldn't share the seeds. With anyone. Ever. What a meanie.
So, my friend's pop did what any self respecting gardener would do, he jumped the fence in the middle of the night, plucked a couple of ripe tomatoes off the vine and hotfooted it back over the fence. He saved the seeds and started growing these tomatoes himself. Very successfully for many years. And he shared the seeds. And he gave some seeds to his son, who gave some seeds to his daughter, who passed on the seeds to me.
Who would have thought a tomato could provide not only a delicious legacy but also an enduring tale of a grandfather's bold escapade. I feel lucky to share the spoils. Now that's what I call a real heirloom tomato.