Tomato lovers, rejoice. Tomatomania! is back
Have your winter salads of greens and more greens gotten so dull that you’ve stooped to buying tasteless hot-house tomatoes just to add a little color to your plate?
Help is on the way. Tomatomania! is gearing up for 2022 with 200-plus varieties of tomatoes and nearly 100 types of peppers, on sale starting Feb. 25 at Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar.
This annual traveling show will visit nine SoCal locations this year between San Diego and Santa Barbara counties, with many varieties continuing to be available at the venues through May.
February can be chilly for planting tomatoes in inland parts of Southern California, says Tomatomania! owner Scott Daigre, but not for the more temperate coastal regions, where frost is rarely a concern.
Tomatoes are a warm-season crop, which like peppers and basil, need soil temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit to really start growing with gusto. But if you’re aching to get going on your summer bounty, Daigre says your seedlings will be just fine in their 4-inch pots for a few weeks, until the soil warms up. Just keep them watered in a warm, sunny spot.
If you’re growing tomatoes in containers, you can get a head start, because the soil gets warmer much quicker in pots. Just be sure to choose a large container for each plant, preferably at least 24 inches deep, so the roots have plenty of room to grow, and keep the pot in a location that gets at least six to eight hours of sun a day.
The biggest challenge with Tomatomania! is deciding which varieties to choose. And boy, does Daigre have varieties to offer, in a rainbow of colors such as:
- Bronze Torch, an elongated cherry variety and the 2022 tomato of the year
- Saucy Mary, a stripy, lime-green early producer
- Paul Robeson, a blackish-red heirloom beefsteak variety
- Pinocchio, a deep-orange heirloom Roma variety with a long, pointy end
- Momotaro, a flavorful pinkish-red Japanese hybrid
Bronze Torch, a hybrid named for its brick-red color striped in green and bronze, does well in the ground or containers, Daigre said, and produces yummy fruit in just 65 days.
“I traveled with little bundles of this tomato last year, asking people what they thought, and jaws dropped.”
— Scott Daigre, Tomatomania! owner
That’s some of the criteria needed to be chosen tomato of the year, he said. “We want to see good, solid production and flavor, and this one tastes amazing. I traveled with little bundles of this tomato last year, asking people what they thought, and jaws dropped and eyes opened wide because this cherry [tomato] was so different and so good.”
Another bonus: Bronze Torch will start producing in early spring and continue into the fall. “It kept going in my garden [in Ojai] forever,” Daigre said. “I’ve made everything with them. ... I roasted them and made salsas and salads. Technically, it’s a cherry tomato, but it doesn’t have the sugar level that a Sungold has, so the flavor is more complex. It’s very unique.”
David Freed spent most of his adult life in the restaurant business, but when he sold the 8th Street Grill, his University Park coffee shop, in 2007, he discovered there were plenty of other things to do with his time.
Roger’s Gardens has made choosing a little easier by listing many Tomatomania! varieties on its website. Orders must be picked up at its Corona del Mar store, but if that’s too far, you can at least get an idea of what’s coming to a venue near you, Daigre said.
Where to buy Tomatomania!’s unique varieties
Here are the upcoming sales dates, listed by county. Note that most venues (except Fig Earth Supply) will have extended sales after their initial weekends, with fewer choices but still a large selection of plants.
That was a big lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic, Daigre said. Tomatomania!’s sales used to be crowded events with workshops and long lines. Tomato lovers still wanted the choice but not the crowds during the pandemic, he said, so Tomatomania! adapted by creating opening-weekend sales with 200-plus varieties and then offering a more limited selection for several weeks after.
Los Angeles County
Fig Earth Supply, 3577 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closes at 4 p.m. March 13).
Tapia Brothers Farm, 5251 Hayvenhurst Ave., Encino, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Feb. 25-March 6
Roger’s Gardens, 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
San Diego County
Mission Hills Nursery, 1525 Fort Stockton Drive, San Diego, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Santa Barbara County
Seaside Gardens, 3700 Via Real, Carpinteria, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Otto & Sons Nursery, 1835 E. Guiberson Road, Fillmore, 8 a.m to 4 p.m.
Underwood Farm Center, 3370 Sunset Valley Road, Moorpark, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wachter’s Hay & Grain, 114 S. Montgomery St., Ojai.
Underwood Farm Market, 5696 E. Los Angeles Ave., Somis, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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