A tome from Tomatoman

IMG_0369If you truly love tomatoes, good tomatoes, you eventually have to grow tomatoes. Because no matter how good one you buy might be, it won’t be as good as one you pick from your backyard minutes before eating it, when its skin is warm from the sun and its flesh so juicy that it covers you in red when you bite in.

Luckily for tomato lovers, “Tomatoman” Craig LeHouillier of Raleigh has finally produced his long-awaited book, “Epic Tomatoes: How To Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time” (Storey Publishing, $19.95).

When I met Craig years ago, he couldn’t park his car in his garage or driveway because both will filled with plants and seeds. Although at that time he was a chemist at Glaxo, his true passion was heirloom tomatoes. Heirlooms – those tomatoes that taste like Daddy’s did, with names and stories worthy of a novel – were dying out in some cases, hard to find in others. Craig decided to save them and popularize them. And he is credited with bringing back the Cherokee Purple, a tomato many connoisseurs consider the Perfect Tomato. He also fed the hunger of area tomato lovers for several years by organizing Tomatopalooza, a free-for-all tasting extravaganza.

A few years ago, Craig went full-time into tomatoes, focusing on a project to create dwarf versions of the often tall and unwieldy heirlooms, allowing container gardeners to enjoy their flavor and variety. He hosts tomato dinners are area restaurants during the summer; find out more by following him at @nctomatoman.

At a signing for the book recently at Quail Ridge Books, the co-founder of Seed Savers Exchange called Craig “a national treasure.” It’s not an exaggeration.

“Epic Tomatoes” is one of those books that gardeners love to get in February when a high of 29 is predicted. It has gorgeous photos and clear instructions that should help those who have never tried growing tomatoes from seed through the process. There are even a few recipes, including a roasted tomato sauce that I’d like to try….but not until July.

 

Food news roundup

Market Restaurant’s got hives, but the buzz is that they’re a good idea. The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) writes that the Raleigh restaurant has started a CSApiary with beehives on its roof. Read more here.

The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer travels around the world in four potato salads here, because they’re more American than apple pie for Fourth of July picnics. Taiwanese apple and ham…mmm.

From brick-and-mortar restaurants to metal-and-rubber food trucks to – pedal-and-foot bikes? Food delivery by bicycle is the next thing, says the Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.) here.

Make slow-cooked barbecued pork without getting the vapors outdoors in the heat, says the Charleston Post and Courier. Find the recipe here.

OK, if you insist on being stereotypical for the Fourth, the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal has recipes for palm-sized versions of apple pies that you can eat while wandering your picnic. Read more here. Just watch out for Yogi Bear.

Pop a cold one and have a good read about libations. The Kansas City Star has a review of new books on the topic here.

The Hub and I are fans of Stormchasers on the Discovery Channel. All I’ve ever seen these guys eat is beef jerky from gas stations, but Reed Timmer (in “The Dominator”) offers his Top Ten Tornado Alley Restaurants here. Just in case, while you’re on vacation this summer, you need to consume a 72-ounce steak. (No vegetarian restaurants – big surprise.)

I still heart books and bookstores

Kindle, Nook, iPad. I’ve felt like a dinosaur, pulling my dead tree-based reading material from my groaning shelves. But read this, from a Wall Street Journal article today about Barnes & Noble going up for sale:

“Despite the array of suggestions tailored to my interests (or at least to my recent purchases) that appear when I open the Amazon site, I still yearn for someone intelligent who can recommend a good book. I enjoy the community of other people who love books. I like talking to someone both before buying a book and after reading it. I think independent bookstores may be able to provide these services even while selling over the Internet. Their overhead should be lower, since they don’t need to carry huge inventories of physical books and don’t need huge retail spaces. Maybe I’m naive, but I’d like to think there are new opportunities for booksellers.”

Om mani padme Moose

I walked into Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, N.C., and there it was, right by the door. A shrine. To me.

Well, OK, not exactly a full-blown shrine – there were no burning candles, or people bowing at the particular time that I walked in. But it is a lovely display with all four of my books and my photo, which was appropriated from the famous author wall in the store’s bathroom. Every author craves to be in the Quail Ridge bathroom. Really. (Nigella Lawson’s photo isn’t in there. So what if she sells 20 times the cookbooks I do and has all that fluffy hair?)

This is the biggest thing since my photo went up near the paper towel dispenser, and I thank QRB for putting the books out there. I asked about adding a candle, but the staff thought that might make people believe I was dead. A neon light in the shape of antlers might be nice.