Summer brings out city’s favorite fruit
By Tessa Marguerite Outland
Tomatoes are so in this season.
Summer has arrived and farmers markets are bursting with freshly picked produce. Blackberries and apricots drip with juice. Cucumbers and corn are dressed in bright greens and yellows. To top it all off are tomatoes: cherry, beefsteak, green zebras, even Mr. Stripey heirlooms.
Many local farmers are vendors at neighborhood farmers markets and sell their tomato varieties throughout the year. The popularity of tomatoes runs deep in local history. For decades over the past century, at least five canneries operated in Sacramento.
Today the canneries are gone but tomatoes remain a favorite. Jamie Dettmer is a market manager for Certified Farmers’ Markets of Sacramento County. She’s also an avid farmers market enthusiast and knows many vendors by name.
When asked who grows some of the best tomatoes, she rattles off an impressive list, describing the juicy and flavorful fruit grown on area farms.
One vendor with exceptional tomatoes is Juan Toledo of Toledo Farms, a certified organic grower in Lodi who works with his father Federico Toledo.
Toledo created his farm about 10 years ago on a modest 3 acres. A few years ago, the growing operation moved to its current plot in Lodi, with 30 acres of rich soil and plenty of space.
While the battle with grass and weeds never ends, the seasonal harvest is worth it.
Tomato varieties from Toledo Farms include heirloom, Brandywine and cherry. With help from the sun, soil and water, Toledo says his tomatoes grow quickly with sweet, juicy fruit. This summer, in addition to tomatoes, Toledo Farms is growing jalapeno, serrano and orange bell peppers, summer squash and watermelon. Whatever the season, there’s always something in rotation.
“It makes my job a lot easier when people say these tomatoes are a little bit sweeter or better tasting,” Toledo says. “Feels good.”
Toledo attributes his tasty tomatoes to work and diligence. “There’s no cutting corners,” he adds. “When I sell my stuff, I know there’s hard work behind it. It’s pure.”
Toledo says his favorite way to eat his tomatoes is simply sliced on a sandwich or chopped cherry tomatoes in a salad. His daughter loves ripe, juicy tomatoes straight from the vine. Toledo is proud of his farm and the full-flavored produce he shares with the community.
“Anything that comes out of Toledo Farms is grown with blood, sweat, tears and hard work,” the grower says. “I have a lot of satisfaction in that.”
Toledo Farms is a vendor at the Elk Grove Farmers Market on Saturdays and the Downtown Farmers Market, temporarily relocated to the Arden Fair Mall parking lot on Sundays.
Other vendors with ripe and ready-to-eat tomatoes can be spotted throughout the summer months at any farmers market in the area.
Tessa Marguerite Outland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.