Tomato Fest 2010 at Maya's Farm

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This past Saturday, The Farm at South Mountain was packed with locals eager to learn about, and taste, delicious ripe tomatoes at Slow Food Phoenix's Tomato Fest 2010. The name of the event sounded so similar to Spain's famed "La Tomatina" festival in which gazillions of folks pummel each other with ripe tomatoes that I half-expected a tomato-flinging orgy.

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The folks from Scottsdale's Crudo Cafe take a break to buy some plants.

But this event was strictly educational, with a focus on planting and growing tomatoes in the desert. Local growers Dave Larkin, Carl Seacat and Tim Moore gave talks on tomato care. Maya Dailey of Maya's Farm was around, answering questions about planting and directing visitors towards the tomato plant that would best suit their needs. "Now is the time to plant them," says Dailey

 

Pop Quiz: You've probably heard that tomatoes and other vegetables won't grow in desert soil. True or false? (answer after the jump) 

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Tomato grower Carl Seacat sets guests straight on soil.
"That's a myth," declared Carl Seacat at his noon workshop on growing tomatoes. "I've even heard it from another grower (not Maya). I delivered a hundred and five pounds of tomatoes to restaurants this week. It can be done!" As you might expect, Seacat notes that desert soil is not naturally conducive to growing vegetables, as the soil is too acidic. But certain tomato varieties do well even when planted directly in the ground here. 

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​Maybe Slow Food Phoenix didn't plan for so many visitors, but by noon, the food booths were picked clean. Not one whole tomato in sight! Quiessence's tomato soda booth (an interesting concept, fresh tomato juice with sparkling water and a touch of vanilla) had only two little cups left, and Crudo Cafe was down to their last plate of caprese. The other booths had a handful of bruschetta or tomato noodles left, but nowhere near enough to last until the event's close at 4 p.m.

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Quiessence's lovely rep tries to get takers on her last two cups of tomato soda.
​It was a bummer for folks looking to get tomato education in the form of free noshes, but maybe it's a good sign. Clearly, a lot of people were interested in growing their own vegetables -- which could mean the local/organic/slow food movement is slowly moving from restaurants to homes. "We need as a culture to change the direction of our country," says Dailey. "Taking back the reins on our food is the only way it's going to happen." Here, here! We'll raise a glass of tomato soda to that.

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