Sun 12 Jun 2011 10:54 pm
“THE TATER-MATER man’s most famous creation has been the centerpiece of salads at the nation’s top restaurants, a clue on Jeopardy, a bright flash of contrasting color on horticultural posters.
“An old heirloom variety,” one seed catalog says about the gorgeous, tangy Green Zebra tomato. “Origin: Unknown,” says another.
“Actually, its originator was Tom Wagner of Everett, a man obsessed with producing ever-better varieties of tomatoes (”maters”) and potatoes (”taters”), whose bookcase holds binders with some 50 years of careful notes on hybridization and disease resistance, whose bathtub is full of potatoes, who has sneaked a few breeding experiments past his wife onto the extended testing ground of their back balcony. (Even after nearly four decades of marriage, he says, “She still kind of hates me doing this. This is like a mistress to her.”)
That’s how I started a Seattle Times article on the amazing Tom Wagner, a man who has spent decades developing ever-better varieties of tomatoes and potatoes, including the distinctively striped “Green Zebra” on so many restaurant plates.
The Tater-Mater man kindly talked with me on a day earlier this year when his hundreds of tomato seedlings were only a few inches high. I’d love to find out how they grew, and what he learned from them to use for following years.
The full story is here, but I think Wagner’s knowledge could easily fill a book.
Over at The Christian Science Monitor, here’s a Q&A with Jeff Benedict on his timely new book “Poisoned“. And, you can often find me over at Al Dente, where I talked about cooking on a budget, when a recipe is really yours, and how annoying it gets when an “Every Day” cookbook aimed at working parents suggests a good lunch idea starts with cleaning beef hearts and simmering them on the stove for two hours. Maybe if your work involves a test kitchen, sure.
Hope your summer is warm and your taters and maters are growing strong