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Tomatoes are focus of weekend gathering

Event celebrates the garden-grown gems
By: Martha Garcia, Loomis News Editor
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Just like his “girls” — Rosie, Betsy and Ophelia — Dave Faoro loves tomatoes. The barred rock chickens get to munch on tomatoes Faoro picks from the 18 tomato beds in the 100 by 100 foot garden he has planted at his Rock Springs Road farm. This weekend, Faoro will be picking his best tomatoes to enter in the tomato-growing contest during the Tomato Gathering at the High Hand fruit shed. The event, which runs Aug. 20 to 22, celebrates Placer County’s agricultural heritage. Admission is free Saturday and Sunday. Faoro said he loves to give away tomatoes as much as he likes to grow and eat them. “I get nothing but great satisfaction out of people enjoying new and different types of tomatoes they’ve never seen before,” he said. This year, Faoro has 88 tomato plants and 39 varieties, in many different colors, types and shapes, all with different tastes and from a very small percentage of plants available. “I do change it out every year. I do have certain core ones, and bring in new ones every year,” he said. Homegrown tomatoes taste nothing like what’s available in a supermarket, Faoro said. His tomatoes are picked ripe, he said, and not green. “The taste is unique per type of tomato ... it’s usually much richer and deeper, with more tones to it,” he said. The Green Zebra, he said, has a lemony taste to it that’s great for salads. “It has beautiful dark green stripes on a background of light yellow. When ripe they have a more yellow blush to them, The inside is a nice emerald green.” Another favorite is the Delicious, which produces large red fruit that can weigh more than one pound. “The flavor does match it's name, it is delicious,” Faoro said. Not all of Faoro’s tomatoes are behemoths. The Sun Gold is a cherry-size tomato that ripens to a nice rich orange color that is exceptionally sweet, he said. Faoro is considering entering this popular tomato in the High Hand contest. Faoro said planting a garden is a family tradition, and he’s been growing tomatoes since 1978, when he moved to his own home. “This comes from an old Italian custom,” he said. “My dad has had a vegetable garden his whole life. My grandparents, too.” One of the plants he grows is from tomato seeds that come from his family in Treviso, Italy. “It’s a nice, big, red tomato … Kind of a beefsteak-sized tomato” good for eating or canning, he said. Faoro also likes Early Cascade tomatoes. It make clusters of 2-plus Inch diameter fruit, just right for salads or any other fresh eating. It is very productive and has an excellent taste," he said. When not entering contests, what does Faoro do with all the tomatoes, as well as the eggplant, garlic, squash and peppers he gleans from his garden? He gives away the produce at VeriFone in Rocklin -- where he is vice president, chief security officer -- in exchange for donations to the Placer County food bank. “Contrary to what happens to zucchini, where no one wants to ever see you walk by,” Faoro said, “there’s never a problem finding a home for these tomatoes.” Michele Parry of High Hand’s marketing department said entries are still being accepted for the tomato-growing contest, which takes place Sunday. Entry information is available online at highhand.com. Other Tomato Gathering highlights include a history display depicting the county’s farming legacy, with fruit crate labels and photographs by the Loomis Basin Historical Society; a pictorial essay of the five-generation Tudsbury farm and display about the Mountain Mandarin growers. Tomato growers and producers from throughout the county will be selling their produce, and local chefs will offer dishes featuring tomatoes. Friday evening the High Hand Conservatory will also host a fundraising dinner for PlacerGrown, featuring a seasonal menu highlighting tomatoes and paired with Placer County Vintners Association wines. The Loomis Basin Historical Society and South Placer Heritage Foundation will benefit from a silent auction. Items to bid on include gift baskets, hotel stays and a wine tasting. Admission to the dinner is $45 per person in advance, or $65 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at the Conservatory. Parry also said overflow parking will be available near the lumber mill. High Hand will have a free shuttle running all weekend.