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Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by the unexpected explosion of taste from a humble, even strange looking ingredient?  That’s what happened to me about ten years ago in the northern Italian city of Bra. Bra is the hometown of the Slow Food Movement, and every two years they host a festival simply called Cheese.

I was taking a break from the onslaught of rich crumbly, salty and creamy goodness just wandering through the streets, when I stopped in front of a Fruttivendolo (an old fashioned fruit and vegetable store). The ugliest tomato I had ever seen was nestled in a basket and displayed with pride in the front window. I remember thinking to myself, “I’ll bet that tomato tastes incredible if they’re giving it that much attention.” So I went into the store, bought one, asked them to wash it for me, went outside and  leaned over the sidewalk into the street and took a bite.

A red lightening bolt went through me. Tomato. It was what you think tomatoes taste like in your mind but almost never get to experience. Then I really looked at the ragged half eaten thing in my hand.  It was juicy yes, but also fleshy. It was the perfect sauce tomato. I wiped my hands off on my jeans, walked back into the store and proceeded to interrogate the owner on the provenance of the tomato.He knew the variety.  Costoluto Canestrini Genovese, a lobed variety from Genoa.

In Italy seeds are sold in flower shops, supermarkets and Home Depot-like stores. For the rest of the trip I became obsessed, like a pointer dog honing in on my prey. Finally a week later, I hit pay dirt in Lucca, the ultimate walled Tuscan town.  I found a garden shop near the wall.

I bought ten packages and brought them to MaryAnn Carpenter. The Carpenters, Paul, MaryAnn and Mark farmed under the name Coastal Organics at that time. They trusted me about the tomato’s quality and did a small first planting.  They gave the tomato my name to make it easier to sell. That’s why you see Evan’s tomato at their stand at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.

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