Are You a Tomato Maniac?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Today's lesson children, is titled "are you a certified Tomato Maniac?" This can be a hard question to answer. Another -- related -- question would be "are you certifiably insane?" If the answer to that question is yes, then you too could be a "certified" Tomato Maniac.

Do you enjoy fresh, off-the-vine tomatoes? Do you dream about fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes during the depths of the winter doldrums. Is 27 tomato plants in the backyard considered a "good start?" Do you freeze tomatoes? Can tomatoes? Talk about tomatoes until friends run for cover?

Then you are probably a Tomato Maniac.

Although I've mentioned before in this blog that my love affair with all things tomato began as a teenager, and really took off when Venus took a chance on a strange looking plant called the "Green Zebra," another source that fed the insanity is a special Yahoo group called Tomato Mania.

And, if you're guessing that this group is all about tomatoes, that would be a fine guess indeed.

There are thousands of groups on Yahoo dedicated to every subject under the sun. Anything between Apples and Zebras (A-Z) is fair game on Yahoo Groups. And you're likely to find anywhere from three to four groups dedicated to the same subject. The same is true with the subject of tomatoes. If you perform a search in Yahoo Groups under the subject heading of tomatoes, you'll likely find nine or ten groups dedicated to this single topic.

But -- Tomato Mania is the monster. This group, founded by a pair of Tomato Maniacs, started in 2001 and boasts nearly 1600 members from not just all over the country -- but all over the world. There are tomato lovers in every corner of this world. And, if you want to know how tomatoes grow in the Isle of Man (between Great Britain and Ireland) for example, you talk to June.

June lives in the Isle of Man and is a certifiable Tomato Maniac.

Or, if you're curious about what varieties grow well in the State of Oklahoma, you talk to "Dev."

Dev lives in Oklahoma and is a certifiable Tomato Maniac.

Northern Californians like myself, Farmer Fred Hoffman, Sue Kolbo (Rivergait Ranch) and Gayla Roberts (Always Enough Ranch) also visit the group daily to share tomato growing tips, exchange stories and let everyone know about what is doing well in their tomato world, and what is not doing so well.

You could call us all certifiable Tomato Maniacs.

To put it short and sweet, there are probably thousands of websites dedicated to the growth and production of tomatoes. But none of them offer the kind of traffic, tips and help that you will find on Tomato Mania. If you're going to dabble into the world of growing heirloom tomatoes, this group is a must. Because, I guarantee you that no matter how rare a tomato plant variety is, someone, somewhere, has already grown it.

And you will find this Tomato Maniac on Tomato Mania.

If you find yourself wanting to grow heirloom tomatoes this summer, but aren't sure what you should try (there are THOUSANDS of varieties), then you should have a discussion with "Janet." She is known in Tomato Mania circles as "Janet the Seedstress," and is the keeper and protector of the vast vault known as the Tomato Mania seed bank.

If you've never grown heirloom tomatoes before, but have the desire to try, Janet might reccommend a time-tested variety called Stupice. This variety grows just about anywhere, including concrete it seems, and it's just one of those plants that you can't possibly screw up. Not only will Janet and other group members be happy to supply you with seeds (in exchange for a self-addressed envelope), she and others will keep up with the advice and encouragement during the entire growing season.

The best thing about this deal? The seeds are free! Donations of stamps, envelopes and even cash for the seedbank are always welcome, but not required.

Tomato Mania was born in the minds of two growers who started trading heirloom seeds and stories long before the age of the internet and email. Both Mary-Anne and Byron helped nurture the heirloom tomato movement long before it gained the strength and popularity it has today. While tomato growers like Bill Bird believed there were only three types of tomato plants, or that all tomatoes were red in color and round in shape, Byron and Mary-Anne were discovering new varieties and seeds from all over the world.

They helped shaped the grow-your-own movement that is circling the globe today. Certainly, there are others that also deserve credit, but you also must give credit where credit is due.

And yes, both Mary-Anne and Byron are "certifiable" Tomato Maniacs. And you will find them posting tips, helpful advice and sharing every tomato story under the sun.

You can find the Yahoo Group, Tomato Mania, here. Registration is free. The only thing that is required is a love of all things tomato.


LeatherneckJoe said...

My second year of gardening I grew over 800 tomato plants, yup I was insane, lol, or at least my wife and everyone else thought so. They did however enjoy all the free tomatoes. Look where it has taken me,

Garry said...

my name is garry and yes, i am a tomato maniac. i subscribe to the yahoo group and tomatoes are the only reason i bother to garden nay other vegetable. i listen to farmer fred and will even re-listen to his podcasts during the week. but is this really a problem that needs curing?

Anonymous said...

my name is Nancy-retired to Tn from Sacto 3yrs ago. in Sacto i grew my maters on the front porch in pots-so far in Tn that is what i have done. this year for my b'day, my sister is building me a 8'x8' raised garden. have 12 different heirlooms waiting to get in the dirt-just happy to share with my beginning garden plot!!

Gizmo said...


Too funny to see the photo of Byron et moi when we got to meet after all these years of being cyber gardening pals.

Tomatoes rule the garden!

Alamo, CA

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bill for your Kudo's

We attempted to keep the list as a PG 13 group. When we started we had a 14 YO from Kuwait as a member, Trying to grow tomatoes and make compost
at 140F, Last I heard, he was in the US getting a degree in Agriculture

We do have members from India, Oz, New Zeland, NWT in Canada, Brazil, Japan and a few others.

A temporary member, trying to grow tomatoes at the South Pole
~he had a problem keeping them warm enough, long enough to ripen.