Book Review – Epic Tomatoes

Epic Tomatoes, how to select and grow the best varieties of all time by Craig LeHoullier
Storey Publishing
ISBN 978-1-61212-208-3

Epic Tomatoes - How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time by Craig LeHoullier.
Epic Tomatoes – How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time by Craig LeHoullier.

The author of this book, Craig LeHoullier, is a tomato adviser for Seed Savers Exchange, an American non profit organisation, established to save and share the seeds of heritage varieties of seed with the aim of conserving and promoting America’s culturally diverse, but often endangered, garden and food crop heritage through future generations. As you’d expect, there are numerous and frequent referrals to heritage American tomato varieties throughout the book; don’t let this put you off. Although you couldn’t purchase every tomato variety suggested at your local garden centre, you might be surprised to find that a quick Internet search will help you find many, though not all, of your favourites in a matter of seconds online with UK suppliers.

Epic Tomatoes - How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time by Craig LeHoullier.
Epic Tomatoes – How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time by Craig LeHoullier.

Indeed I found reading the growing advice from this American expert interesting. I found the regional growing tips and diverse challenges from short seasons, cold weather and heavy rain through to high humidity and hot summers from gardeners in Alaska, California, Texas, Florida and Eastern Canada a welcome addition to the book.

Those interested to learn more of the history of tomatoes will enjoy the insight into the life of American seed savers and their passion for tomatoes, passing on seeds to neighbours and fellow enthusiasts to keep old varieties alive. Anyone wishing to save their own seeds and grow open pollinated or heritage tomato varieties would benefit from reading this book, as the advice given is very comprehensive and includes advice on selecting your own seed to save and different techniques to process seeds prior to storage.

The Problem Solving section of this book would have been greatly improved by the addition of photographs or illustrations to clearly depict every tomato problem the author identifies. Additional images would have made this section far more informative, interesting and useful for the reader. I felt this area of the book could have been expanded upon a little, as some additional advice would have at times been beneficial.

The clear sectioning of the author’s 250 recommended tomato varieties into colour groups, within a simply laid out table indicating the variety’s shape, size, season (whether early or late to harvest) growth habit, flavour, whether it’s a hybrid or an open pollinated type, will be a very useful and time saving aid to gardeners wishing to grow different flavours, colours, shapes and sizes of tomatoes.

With over 250 pages, this book covers everything from different tomato varieties to grow and their history, growing from seed or purchased plants, different growing techniques and training methods, saving seed and seed storage among others. The author includes a few simple tomato recipes, advises on tomato harvesting and storage of tomatoes including the traditional canning technique, advice on tomato varieties to grow and the flavours colours and shapes they exhibit.

Both seasoned tomato growers and beginners can learn a lot from this book; with a lot of the information centred around heritage, American varieties that aren’t always as well known here, it gives a real and welcome opportunity to expand the tomato varieties we grow and the flavours we enjoy. This book has certainly inspired me to grow some of the tomatoes the author recommends, I can’t wait to try them!

Epic Tomatoes - How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time by Craig LeHoullier.
Epic Tomatoes – How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time by Craig LeHoullier.

A shorter version of this review was published in the May 2015 edition of VantagePoint Magazine.

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