From The Farm Cooking School presents the first of Cynthia Peters’ Local Food Heroes, a series of posts on the innovative food and wine producers of Prince Edward County and the delicious things they make.
Travelling down the country roads in Prince Edward County’s wine region, one can see rolling acres of grape vines bursting with fruit. The same visual can also be seen at a quaint organic farm near Milford, called Vicki’s Veggies Farm. These vines bear a different kind of fruit though, heirloom tomatoes. It is truly a celebration in Ontario every August as the first crop of fresh field tomatoes are ready and we begin a month long consumption of the best “eating” fruit of the season.
For Vicki and Tim the season begins early in the year when they start planting their seedlings in the greenhouse. The days are long, but they love what they do and are excited as each new crop comes to life. They grow hundreds of heirloom tomato species to endless varieties of squash, beans, beets, berries and the list goes on.
With more than 3,000 heirloom tomato plants, they have cultivated a new approach to growing these tasty sweet morsels. As a way to grow and harvest a higher volume and quality of fruit, Vicki’s Veggies have employed traditional methods of our local grape growers. With acres of staked rows, the seedlings are forced to grow on rope, which is secured up and down each side creating a support called “Basket weaving”. This allows for easy access to pruning and harvesting. This method also allows more energy to go directly to the fruit and increases the amount of sunlight to the plant. Air can also circulate more freely around the plant, which is helpful during wet periods, decreasing the chance of fungus. As each plant grows, the branches are clipped to the strings, creating a wall of vines, similar to grape vines. Pickers are also happier with this method, as the fruit can be easily harvested. With the tomatoes far from the soil, bruising and blemishes are also kept to a minimum.
If you are lucky to be in the County on the long weekend in May, you can visit their annual seedling sale. Their cute roadside shop (formally a rural post office) sells fresh produce everyday along with homemade pesto, soups and sauces. Hours are 8am-4pm daily during the growing season.
You can also spot them at both the Evergreen Brick Works and the Wychwood Green Barns markets on Saturdays in Toronto. It’s an early morning for them, but they love the weekly trek to the markets and meeting the customers first hand.
If you can escape to Prince Edward County on Labour Day weekend, they hold their annual Heirloom Hurrah Tomato Tasting event on September 1st & 2nd at their farm. Go to vickisveggies.com for details and directions.
So, cheers to Aunt Ruby’s German green tomatoes and Yellow Pear cherry tomatoes…. just a couple of my favourites. But who can really choose, they all taste great!
Can’t see the video? Click here.