(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 1, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
I subscribe to several online newspapers and magazines and when receiving the latest edition of the Daily Telegraph--a newspaper from England--I was immediately captivated by the headline: "New Species of Tomato Guarantees Growing Success." I quickly turned to the page of the article and read the words feverishly with an excitement I was barely able to control.
Here is a summation of the article:
Siena, Italy -September 2008: A group of archaeologists were hard at work clearing weeds and debris among the ruins of what was once a glorious, beautiful church. Suddenly, the leader of the group called everyone over to gaze at his discovery. Excited, they ran to where the man was standing preparing to find an ancient artifact or trinket from a time and place long since forgotten. Eyes were scanning the earth for a gold or silver object or perhaps an earthen pot but all they saw were weeds and what looked to be a bunch of tomatoes. Confused, they asked what they were meant to be looking at. Impatiently the leader proclaimed "Don't you see! This is the Brevaria tomato! This is a species once grown originally by the priests who tended the old gardens of this church." The archaeological group still did not understand so the leader explained in detail. Basically, the old priests developed a strain of tomato so delicious and so hardy it was coveted by all of Europe. The strain was created by accident. Two separate species of tomatoes were allowed to grow together and one season they combined and created a completely new and unique species.
This new tomato was a crisp, blood red variety that carried the flavor of heaven itself. The priests were able to raise significant amounts of money to help their church and the entire town of Siena. When asked the name of this tomato, they came up with Brevaria to signify a brave new world of prosperity and plenty. Beyond the flavor, the tomato was 100% disease- and pest- resistant and required half the water of other tomato varieties. It was indeed, the perfect garden plant and demand was high for this beautiful red treasure.
The cultivation of this prized tomato spread to gardens throughout Italy and eventually travelled all throughout Europe and it remained popular for many years. Then something happened. No one is sure why but the Brevaria started to fade into obscurity. This church began to suffer substantial financial losses and the land once used to grow vegetables of every kind including the Brevaria was sold to developers to create housing and market stalls. Priests were relocated to other churches and with progress transforming the village, the tomato was forgotten. Across Europe, growing this old tomato seemed passé and plots were now used to grow the more fashionable tomato varieties.
How soon they forgot the original allure of the Brevaria. None of the newer varieties held a candle to the taste and resilience of this beautiful tomato. For something so grand, it certainly did not deserve this sort of fate. Since no seed was ever stored, this mythological tomato was thought to be extinct.
With that, the leader of the group took a knife from a sheath on his belt and cut open one of the tomatoes that glistened in the sun. He divided this tomato into quarters and did the same with several others and passed them along to the entire group. The excitement could not be masked as this wonderful taste sensation now occupied their mouths. Many "Oh my's" and "Wow's" were echoed as the tomatoes were eaten with immense satisfaction.
Several more tomatoes were gathered and sent to leading horticulturalists in the area for preserving and future propagation. The vines at the church site were fenced off for protection and were carefully tended to by volunteers from Siena. We can expect to see seeds and plants made available to gardeners as early as 2012.
I am already excited at the prospect of growing this tomato. It is guaranteed never to split and to bear fruit no matter the growing environment. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is. Today IS April Fool's day after all.
Author's Notes: The town of Siena is real. I am sure there are ancient priories and churches that have faded into obscurity and it was fun to breathe life into one -- albeit fictional. Though an April Fool's story, I would actually like to consider this a parable. Thank you kindly for reading!
All images are from Wikimedia Commons.