It seems like more growers and consumers are demanding flavorful, organically grown, as well as healthy and beautiful vegetables. Plate appeal is paramount with fine restaurants, but increasingly, home growers are finding that this attribute is just as important as nutrient value and ease of growing. Perusing the seed catalogs this winter, I came across Wild Boar Farms, whose mantra is “changing the world one tomato at a time”. Owned by Brad Gates, Wild Boar Farms is located in Napa Valley, St. Helena, California. Gates is passionate about tomato growing and to listen to him talk about them, it almost sounds like a vintner discussing relative merits of different wines. Watch him explain how he grows his tomatoes.
Gates has grown tomatoes in California for at least a dozen years, and started his love affair with tomatoes when he worked at a farmers market for a friend. That experience showed him what people were looking for in a tomato.
Reading the descriptions of his tomato varieties, you see phrases like – port wine color with metallic silver green stripes (Pink Boar), or a hint of tropical fruit (AAA Sweet Solano), warning, high acid content may cause flashbacks! (Berkeley Tie Dye), and dark, earth tones of rich tomato (Black and Brown Boar). Sounds like a wine tasting description, doesn’t it? Maybe growing these tomatoes in the wine country of Napa Valley has something to do with the similarities to wine making jargon!
Stripes Are King
Wild Boar Farms claims to offer some of the “most outrageous tomato varieties on the planet”. On the cutting edge of developing new tomato varieties using heirloom genetics and mutations as a foundation, Gates then improves on that to produce some remarkable tomatoes. The parentage of many of his new varieties are Zebra tomatoes and his focus is on bi-color and striped varieties – not your grandma’s tomatoes!!
Since Gates specializes in growing thousands of tomatoes every season, he has some good pointers for improving your harvest. The way he describes taking care of his plants is kind of like how a parent takes care of his children. He says be “nice” early on before they set fruit, caring for them with lots of compost, and plenty of water. Later when the tomatoes set fruit, let up on the watering as heirlooms have a thin delicate skin, which with too much rain or water can crack. Kind of like children, nurture them when young, and then set them free!
Plant cover crops in winter to amend soil when tilled under
Water tomato plants frequently when young until rooted in
Taper off watering to every 3 weeks once established, so that roots push deep into the soil for a stronger plant
Prune lower suckers off so that the plant forces energy into fruit production