Monday, June 27, 2011

The July 4th Tomato Challenge.

When I was a boy, my grandfather had an extensive garden. My sister and I saw it so regularly that we eventually became desensitized by it. We figured everyone must have a garden so extravagant, with such a variety of fruits and vegetables, since Grandpop Salvo made it all look so easy.
It wasn't until I was much older that I learned about one of the little challenges my grandfather would have running "behind the scenes" of his lavish garden. My father told me one day that Grandpop Salvo and his gardening cronies had a yearly challenge running amongst them. The challenge was simple in nature, yet a pretty involved task: have a red tomato either on the vine, or picked, by 4th of July..
At face value, it doesn't sound like much of a challenge. But anyone who has ever grown a tomato plant knows there's more to it than meets the eye. Yeah, tomato plants are pretty self-sufficient and all, however they require a great deal of watering, monitoring, and even protection from the local wildlife! Therefore, anyone who thinks this challenge is for the faint of heart is definitely missing some facts.
This is my second year of growing tomatoes myself, and last week I put word out to my gardening family members that the 4th of July was right around the corner, and I reminded all of them about Grandpop Salvo's tomato challenge. This year, my Aunt Alma seems to be the one in the target audience to have the first red tomato. It's a CHERRY tomato, but hey- we can't get picky now, can we?
I hope that this article sparks some fond memories for our readers. If your family follows the same tradition, we'd love to hear about it!


  1. Good stuff Jim. In our neck of the woods, it was more like the tomato wars. Homegrown tomato methods and homemade wine often led to heated discussions. I remember people often whispering that so and so's tomotatoes were so big because they secretly used 'human' compost. People in these parts still argue that the class "A", world class loam soils of Chester and New Castle County, produce the best tomatoes in the country, despite New Jersey's claims.

  2. Wow I never got to hear about any of that! As for the human compost, please feel free to keep those tomatoes in PA LOL

  3. Every year my grandmother (good Latvian girl that she was) had a large vegetable garden. She and her good friend/neighbor had a competition EVERY year to be the first to get a red tomato, and then to get the largest of the season. Thanks for letting me know they weren't the only ones....