“I think, in America, a restaurant is trying to really make great food. What sells the most is 'great' to them. Real lasagna is only this thick", he says, sticking his knife through two steamy inches of lasagna on the plate in front of him. “In the United States they make it twice as thick and they fill it with mozzarella. There is no mozzarella in lasagna!”
Raising a glass to toast, “To bacon and eggs. We all agree that American breakfasts are unbeatable. Omelets, hash browns! But on my last visit to New York, I gained four kilos in three weeks. When I go home I have to think about my bella figura again. Americans never think of their bella figura.”
"In Italy, people see time as a flowing river. In America, time is seen as a commodity... like money. Italians see time as sometimes smooth and sometimes rough and one minute flowing into the next. If something isn’t done this minute, it can be done the next. There are things to be done, but they’ll get done eventually. With Americans everything is 'Now!'"
Ever look at some of your larger tomatoes and wonder if they’d be in the running for the Guinness Book of World Records?
I've personally grown tomatoes just under 3 pounds on occasion. I'm Italian. It's in my DNA. I grow only heirloom tomatoes. An heirloom tomato is one grown from seeds that have been saved again and again, passed on from generation to generation. They are also tomatoes that "hold true" to their parent, unlike hybrid tomatoes. If you were to grow a tomato from a hybrid seed, you can't save seeds from that fruit and expect it to come back next season looking exactly the same. With heirloom tomatoes, it's possible to grow tomatoes that your great-great-grandfather grew, and know they probably look and taste exactly the same.
I've grown red tomatoes, purple tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, pink, green and striped. I even grew a tomato with fuzzy skin like a peach. Now I've got Lucas hooked. Every year for the past 6 or 7 years he's been helping me decide which seeds to grow, how many of each type, and helps me plant the seeds in our cellar and in the garden when they are ready. We alternate to grow fresh seed from one we haven't grown in a few years. I learned to grow tomatoes from my Dad. He always had a garden, even though he never had a big backyard. When I was young there was nothing better than picking a ripe plum tomato off the vine and chomping right into it... the juices dribbling down my chin. Now Lucas does the same thing in summer. This year we're growing 9 varieties.
So, my personal record in terms of size is just under 3 pounds... 2 pounds 11 ounces if I remember correctly. It was an heirloom variety called Giant Belgium. I always tend to save seeds from the largest fruits of the season. In this way genetics go to work in helping grow another huge one.
As for the world's record... if your tomato is under unless they’re over 8 and a half pounds or so, you're not going to win the World's Biggest prize. Lucas weighed less than that when he was born! The record holder used to be Gordon Graham of Edmond, Oklahoma, who held the record for 28 years by growing a 7 pound, 11 ounce tomato. But in 2014, Dan MacCoy of Ely, Minnesota set a new world’s record with a 8.41 lb. tomato. It was an ugly tomato, but then again, a lot of huge ones are. He's also had good luck growing pumpkins well over 1000 pounds! Graham's idea was to grow a big vine for a big tomato... and one was growing until a storm blew over the entire 12-14 foot vine into his cantaloupes. He gave up on the plant, but the tomato just kept growing... and growing... Until the entire vine grew to 53 feet and 6 inches long! He also had a record setting tomato vine!
Dan MacCoy with the new addition to his family
When he picked the tomato from the vine and weighed it he was shocked to see it tip the scales well over 8 pounds. If you want to try and beat his record, you're free to try. Just feed your plant a lot before it sets fruit, then snip off all the smallest fruits until you narrow it down to the one largest fruit. Nurture and baby it, water it, don't let it get sun scald, watch our for pests, and perhaps you can grow a bigger one. I know I'm going to try....
And now there's another way to try to grow a huge tomato...
Burpee's Steakhouse Hybrid
A hybrid tomato seed with the claim of growing the "world’s biggest tomato" (obviously just marketing hype) has gone on the market in the United Kingdom. The Gigantomo tomato plants "have the ability of growing into an grow enormous fruits up to 10 inches wide and as heavy as 3lbs – about 12 times the size of an average salad tomato. Each plant is able to grow to 6ft tall and yield as many as 11 tomatoes" claimed the company selling the plants. Since these plants do grow heavy fruits, they need to be supported to stop them buckling under all that weight. The new variety was launched in the United States last year by the Burpee seed company and was being sold under the name as SteakHouse Hybrid. It's not an heirloom, so you can't save seeds from the fruits, but it might be worth growing.
Even if you're not an Italian, there's nothing like biting into a home grown tomato....
Enjoy Home Grown Tomatoes. It was one of my Dad's favorite tunes. --Jerry Finzi
Copyright, Jerry Finzi, Grand Voyage Italy, All rights reserved
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