Summer is quickly coming to an end, which has us all excited. Not only is harvest in full swing but also, our Annual Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival is fast-approaching. So we thought, what better time to catch up with our Culinary Gardener Tucker Taylor to see how he’s preparing for this monumental food and wine event.
As we made our way through the garden and towards the 3,500 heirloom tomato plants (Tucker is growing another 3,500 heirloom tomato plants at our other garden in Sonoma County), Tucker pointed out the stinging nettle (plant pictured below). This interesting plant is used in biodynamic preps and is very high in nutrients. Soaking the leaves in water or cooking them removes the needles and stinging chemicals from the plant. Chefs love this tasty green, which is similar in flavor to spinach and cucumbers.
Tucker noted the seeds had fallen all around the plant (pictured below), saying that he’s looking forward to the plant naturally growing and expanding within the garden.
Now to the tomatoes. Oh the tomatoes! So many tomatoes — all shapes, sizes and colors. Over 150 different heirloom tomato varietals to be exact. Our tomatoes are grown in long rows with three different varietals grown in each row.
Tucker and his team grow the tomatoes by color so it’s easy for them to harvest and when they’re displayed during Tomato Festival, they look like a rainbow. First white tomatoes, then light green, green, green-yellow, yellow, yellow-orange, orange and so on — all the way to black.
The tomatoes in these boxes that aren’t being used by our culinary team are being harvested and sold to the local FEED Sonoma for distribution.
Right now, Tucker and his team’s primary focus is on making sure the garden is ready to host our Tomato Festival guests — not to mention growing 7,000 tomato plants! In the coming weeks they will move their focus to harvesting and preparing the heirloom tomatoes for our guests and vendors.
If you’ve been keeping up with our garden series, you may remember in our recent post we mentioned Executive Chef Justin Wangler and Tucker have been growing our very own cascading hops. No, it’s not for beer or wine — Chef Justin is planning to use them to make a delicious pesto sauce! YUM!
Mark your calendars on Saturday, September 26th, 2015 and join us for our 19th Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival in beautiful Santa Rosa, California. Click here for more information and tickets to this fun-filled food and wine event.
If you’re looking to grow your own heirloom tomato garden next year, there are some great places online where you can buy seeds. Tucker recommends tomatofest.com — they sell seeds and have a wealth of information about everything heirloom tomatoes.