MOUNTAIN PRINCESS. Persian red. Oxheart; and Black Krim. Green Zebra and Pink Brandywine.
The names are poetic, and the flesh of each – contoured like relief maps in shades of red, orange, yellow and zebra-striped green – is a poem you want to eat.
But you don’t eat raw tomatoes — never have — and yet. These! You can’t help but stop, look, and talk to the woman staffing the booth at the market.
Heirlooms. They are Heirloom tomatoes, started from seed on Dawson Road, which is on Sumas Mountain, where the grower lived, and not long ago, either. “100 feet long by 50 feet wide” is the size of the grow op, she informs you after you confess you can`t buy any as your husband has a small fussed-over “plantation” of his own.
It’s a slow day at Abbotsford’s Wednesday Farmers’ market, between City Hall and the Clearbrook Library. “Those, there,” she points, “can grow between one-and-half and two pounds big.”
You compare husbands’ gardening ways.
“You’d think he invented the tomato,” you say.
“Impossible,” she replies. “My husband did. They’re his babies. And he’s very protective. At the last market a woman squeezed – squeezed! – his tomatoes. He was so upset, he said he wanted to slap her.
He actually had to leave, he was that angry. I told him, “but at least she bought four.” It didn’t matter.
She’d squeezed all the ones she didn’t buy. So, these aren’t our best ones today. We’re saving those for the Port Coquitlam market tomorrow….”
You take photos, make oo-ing and ah-ing sounds, and she talks about names and how growers change the names to suit their own whims, about experimenting, and the fickle nature of some varieties.
You express regret for not liking tomatoes they look so good. Pick up a handout. Tomato facts. Herbaceous…Nightshaders…benefits… “Hundreds of uses,” you read aloud. “…to remove skunk smell from pets….” You turn to her. “Hey, if tomatoes get rid of skunk smells, wouldn’t they also get rid of the smell of pot?”
She bursts into laughter.
“Seriously,” you say. And you mean it. “Think of the market in BC. At one time we had four grow ops right near our place. Could smell it whenever I walked.”
“Oh, and where do you live?” she asked. And that’s how you found out your husbands know one another. And that her family moved off of Sumas Mountain, after giving in to the gravel miners. “They bought us out,” she said. “My husband’s still fighting,” you say.
You pick up her card. “BAKER BREEZE FARM,” you read. “Mio Molnar. Molnar. Molnar!”
Unbidden, you recall newspaper headlines in the local paper, in summers past. “Did your husband play baseball?” Turns out he and his cousin both did, back in the early ’70s, when attending baseball games at Centennial Park was the thing to do that summer when everyone got ten-speed bikes and rode all over town. “The Molnar boys were often headlines in the Abbotsford News,” you say.
“Yes. They were. But his cousin died.”
You remember that too. Reading it in the news. He died of cancer. You read obituaries, too. On-line, now.
You look at the address on the card. “723 McKenzie Road.”
“Hey, that’s close to the border, isn’t it? Was that a raspberry farm at one time?”
“Yes. My husband’s family.”
“You know what? When my sons were little I took them berry picking one summer; and that’s where we picked.”
There are 130,000 people in Abbotsford, but it’s still a small world.
TIP OF THE DAY: “For temporary relief from sore throat symptoms, gargle with a mixture of ½ cup tomato juice, and ½ cup hot water, plus 10 drops of hot pepper sauce.”
FACT OF THE DAY: Fraser Valley is home to over 60% of BC’s food production.
BAKER BREEZE FARM is located at 723 McKenzie Road. Email: email@example.com to inquire about their “Naturally grown vegetables.”
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