Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tomato Maniac!

Have you guys been to "Tomato Mania" at the Cal Poly Plant Center?

It's exactly what it sounds like.  Hundreds, maybe thousands of tomato plants...  dozens of varieties...  bazillions of tomato-crazed gardeners.  See that guy with the rake up there?  That's the biggest tomato maniac in California.  He's also my dad.  Every year, he and my stepmother drive up from San Diego to buy their tomato plants from Cal Poly during the annual event.  They FILL their car with more tomato plants than anyone would ever need, park it in the shade- hang out with us, and drive home.  I'm serious.  

This year he shocked me by suggesting that they might not make it.

Dad: *flipping through the "Tomato Mania" plant catalog*  
"Yeah, I went a little overboard last year and had more tomatoes than I knew what to do with"

Me: "YOU, overboard???  Nooo..."

Dad: "Well, I planned to give some of them away- but then I just couldn't bring myself to do it."

***At this point, he seemed resigned to skip it.  I was shocked.***

The day before the madness, he called back...

Dad: "Maybe if I limit myself to 5-6 plants..."

Me: "That's a great idea, dad.  But is it really worth driving all that way for tomatoes?  You know, they sell them in San Diego too, right?"

Dad:  "Yeah, it would mean a little over an hour of driving per plant." 

***At this point, I assume he's not coming.  Right?***

Wrong.  Meet the maniacs:
That woman at the top is my stepmother.  Notice the pop-up chair, and the tomato catalog.  They sent this photo at around 7am.  Tomato Mania starts around 10:30.  Needless to say, they were first in line to "beat the crazies".  Umm...  They left San Diego at midnight the night before; is it necessary to point out that they might just be "the crazies"?  

Some of my favorite quotes from the tomato-twosome:

"The strategy is to work as a team, but split up.  One gets the cart, we divide up our picks into two parts, and then we each branch off and get half the list.  We got 12 this year.  Last time we got 16... it might have been 18.  We contained ourselves a little bit this time."

"The second day is for the laggers... the ones who think they don't have to go out of their way for tomatoes."

"Well, we're regulars... so if we didn't show up, they might worry and wonder where we were."

"We go for the camaraderie, being there in the tomato frenzy and the rush at the gate is fun!"

"Top of the line tomatoes!  They do better than other tomatoes at any nursery."

"We share gardening tips, tomato stories... 75% of it is getting there early and chatting with people about which tomatoes do well.  We all have like-interests.  The camaraderie is a huge part of it.  Most of the people are expecting us.  We all show up from different parts of California; there's Bob from Orcutt, the gals from Paso, and Atascadero Phil- he's always there."

"The varieties I'm most excited about this year are: "Anna's Noire", "Kellogg Breakfast", and the "Mexican Midget".

"It's all about something they can't live without."

So did my dad limit himself to "5-6 plants" like he intended?  Of course not!  It wouldn't be tomato mania without a carload!  But that's ok.  Like he said, it's about the camaraderie and the friends they've made.  Tomato mania is so much more than tomatoes.  It's supporting the school, the students, the agricultural department.  It's gardeners and enthusiasts coming together once a year- sharing tomato stories, growing tips and having an opportunity to ketchup.  ;)


  1. Great pic of your dad. Fun, funny. Making me crave Bruchetta!

    1. Last year he literally brought us BUCKETS full of tomatoes. Multiple varieties... It was lunacy.

      But yummy lunacy. :)

  2. I have heard about this!!!! I have a client that does it every year and she was talking about getting their early and lining up. I mentioned that my mom loved tomatoes and would probably like to go and the woman warned me to tell her to get there early and pre-pick what you want from the catalog cuz people are reaaaal serious about it! total craziness!! I wish I liked tomatoes, cuz I'd totally be apart of the mania- i love quirky stuff like that!!

    1. *there not their- oops!!!!

    2. ME TOO! I can get down with the ridiculous quirky stuff. Last year we drove to L.A. for Hello Kitty's birthday party. And I love tomatoes- but I'm not about to get up at crazy hours to get all black friday over them... Now if Cal Poly wants to do an Artichoke Mania... that's another story. I would SO be the crazy lady that people sneak photos of with their cellphones... wearing PJ's, arms full of artichoke paraphernalia, making my children "help"... Yeah, actually... let's hope they don't do that.

    3. Hahaha!!!! Yes!!! That's awesome! I can't think of a veggie off the top of my head that I'd do it for but I'd totally do it for scented geraniums!!!


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