Heirloom Tomato Harvest Festival Is Officially Amazing

A rough patch of bad weather couldn’t squelch a determined group of tomatophiles. No way. In fact, this year, erratic temperatures and wild perseverance led to a bumper crop of tomatoes so diverse, growers had to make up names for their inventive varieties of tomatoes.

They even had to invite the Guinness Book of World Records to bear witness to a laser-focused attempt at besting Times Square’s record for most types of tomatoes in one setting. Because why should the concrete jungle of New York City get the award when Los Gatos’s rich farmland is known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight?

On Sunday, September 17, growers in and around Los Gatos, California, gathered among the redwoods for the inaugural Heirloom Tomato Harvest Festival. Along with wine-and-tomato pairings, live music, a Bloody Mary competition, and loads of tomato-based foods, farmers displayed some 241 types of tomatoes—far exceeding Lycored’s 2015 record of a paltry 132 varieties. Yellow Cream Sausage, lumpy Godzilla, and classic Grandma Mary were proudly displayed for the nearly 3,000 attendees at the Los Gatos Town Plaza. Guests ate, they drank, they posed for selfies with Julia Child (a tomato, alas). They mingled with the world’s most notable tomato experts and horticulturalists. One guest mused, “I’m not sure what I am looking forward to most: seeing a gathering of serious tomato enthusiasts and masters, the custom-made tomato saffron ice cream, witnessing setting the Guinness World Record for most tomato varieties, the Bloody Mary contest, Tomato Bites with Wine Pairings, or the amazing bluegrass music.” Helen Pastorino, founder of the World Tomato Society and the festival, posted on Facebook the night before the event: “Thousands of beautifully colored tomatoes is my choice.”

Admission was free, but the atmosphere was rich with conviviality, especially when Guinness official Christina Conlon announced that the record had been broken. “Congratulations!” she shouted from the dais, with tomato luminary Dagma Lacey of TomatoFest and biodynamic-farming goddess Cynthia Sandberg of Love Apple Farms standing beside her. “You are officially