Red Fire Farm in Granby Preps for Tomato Festival
MassLive, August 17, 2016, by Cori Urban
Red Fire Farm’s Tomato Festival takes place rain or shine – “just like farming,” says co-owner Sarah E. Voiland.
The festival usually draws about 2,000 attendees; this year’s 16th annual Tomato Festival will take place Saturday, Aug. 27.
The celebration will include local bands, local food and craft vendors, games, children’s activities, wagon rides and a tomato tasting featuring more than 75 varieties of tomatoes.
Red Fire Farm has hosted a Tomato Festival each year since owner Ryan Voiland began farming the Granby property in 2001.
Among the selection this year will be classics like Brandywine, Cherokee Purple and Paul Robeson, as well as more exotic offerings such as Arkansas Marvel, Gold Dust, Chocolate Stripes, Sunsets Red Horizon and Moonglow.
The selection of cherry tomatoes includes Matt’s Wild and Red Pearl, Indigo Cherry Drop, Egg Yolk, Lemon Drop and Pink Bumble Bee.
“The wild variety of tomatoes, in shape, color, size and flavor always surprises many of our visitors at the festival,” Sarah Voiland said. “Finding one’s own personal favorites amidst the sea of varieties in our tasting tent is one of the highlights of the day.”
Many of the tomato varieties in the tasting are for sale in the stand, so visitors can get their favorites and make a special sauce or salad or can or freeze some for winter use.
“We are all celebrating the diversity of the tomato, thanks to generations of farmers and gardeners who saved these varieties year to year all along until now,” Voiland said.
Asked about her favorite ways to eat tomatoes, she replied: “Tomato sandwiches, hands down, win my favorite tomato-related food. If I’m in a hurry, it’s bread, mayonnaise, big slices of tomato and a little salt and pepper on top. When I have more time, I toast some nice bread, rub a clove of garlic on the bread, then rub a slice of tomato on the bread to infuse it with tomato juice. Then on goes the mayo. Then big slices of tomato, some nice local cheese, some thin slices of sweet onion, a little salt and pepper, and a final layer of fresh basil leaves. Perfection.”
She also recommends sliced tomato salad with basil. It is just slices of tomato, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, maybe a little balsamic vinegar, topped with ribbons of fresh basil. Sometimes she adds chopped raw garlic, sometimes fresh mozzarella. “This salad gives you a really good chance to taste each variety as a single slice, so including maybe four types of different colored tomato varieties and some cherry tomatoes makes for a very beautiful and adventurous experience,” she said.
She makes tomato sauce, cooking down the tomatoes as a puree and canning it for enjoying all winter in many dishes. “It’s like red gold that time of year,” Voiland said.
She also encourages roasting cherry tomatoes in the oven: Toss them in olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Roast in the oven in a pan at 400 degrees until they are browning nicely. Use them to top pasta or polenta, or freeze them for winter.
Over the years, certain varieties have been identified as favorites that often win the Tomato Festival tasting or place in the Massachusetts Tomato Contest. Some classic winners are Brandywine, Matt’s Wild Cherry, Sungold Cherry, Cherokee Purple, Federle, Striped German and Green Zebra.
“In addition to those, people love some of our red slicing varieties and we have expanded our yellow slicing varieties due to demand for lower acid tomatoes,” Voiland said.
In addition to tasting tomatoes, the festival features tomato-themed family-friendly events. This year there will be a Great Tomato Toss, with prizes available for those who can catch the longest throws without getting sauced.
On the day of the festival, tickets are $14 for adults, $7 for children and free for children under eight. Advance tickets discounts will be available beginning Aug. 1.
The festival runs from noon to 6 p.m. at 7 Carver St. in Granby.
Certified organic since beginning production in 2001, Red Fire Farm grows vegetables, fruits, flowers and bedding plants. Products are sold locally through Red Fire farm stands in Granby and Montague, farmers markets in Springfield, Amherst, Northampton and Boston, a CSA farm share program and area stores and restaurants.
For more information about the Aug. 27 Tomato Festival go to redfirefarm.com.