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The Hanover Tomato, Central Virginia’s Most Famous Ingredient
A lifelong Hanoverian recently confessed to me that they didn’t know the story behind Hanover tomatoes. We’ll cut them some slack - you know, when you grow up around something your whole life, sometimes you don’t notice how different and special it is (this is how I imagine it is for kids who grow up near Disney World). Starting in late spring, we’ll start hearing the question, “any tomatoes yet?” I imagine we get this question so early and so often in part due to the unrestricted access larger supermarkets have to produce grown around the globe, as well as the pure excitement and anticipation of our juicy Hanover tomatoes. In reality, without hoop houses, tomatoes don’t usually come into full ripeness until sometime around the Fourth of July in this part of Virginia. But now that they’re here they fill the walls of our farm stands from the bottom up! Each day, the farmers at Woodside Farms dedicate a few hours to picking and properly storing the tomatoes that the Hanover terroir provides for us.
Since these tomato seeds are planted deep into the Hanover soil, each and every tomato that is produced on this farm is a Hanover Tomato. No need to drive all around town burning up that precious gas money. We’ve got every Hanover Tomato you could need for your tomato and mayo sandwiches this summer! Side note: I made a tomato sandwich last night for dinner with Sub Rosa bread, Dukes Mayo, and Woodside Farms tomatoes, lettuce, onion, and basil. This fully Greater Richmond Area-based meal was SO GOOD!
So why are Hanover tomatoes so exceptionally tasty? It’s our soil!
Terroir is the word. It’s usually associated with wine grapes, but we can use it here too! An item’s terroir tells us about its growing conditions - the soil, water, elevation, slope, other flora, climate, and tradition. Here in Hanover, we have quite the tradition of growing and loving these tomatoes, which act as the bearers of the official start to summer. In fact, every year (except for 2020, of course), since 1978 Hanover County has kicked off the summer season with the Hanover Tomato Festival. It was through my tomato research that I found out about Robbert Dodd, the farmer who provided all the tomatoes for the tomato festival until his death in 2017. Dodd rightly claimed that “you could grow the same tomato plant 30 miles away,” and it might taste different because the soil in Hanover County is “the best there is.” Check out his interview with the local news back in 1995!
Now back to terroir, one of the biggest contributors to something’s terroir is the soil in which it is grown. There are many different ideas behind what makes a Hanover Tomato so good and most agree that it’s the soil here that is so important. Our soil is mostly sandy, with just the right pH, and lots of minerals. Some even believe that the reasons go back millions of years! Learn more about that here.
However you slice it, Hanover Tomatoes are the belles of the summer. Swing by our farm stands to fill your bags with cherry tomatoes, slicers, heirlooms, etc. They’re summer’s candy!