You need to know the “Mater Man”
It’s one thing to walk into a restaurant or bar and have the proprietor know you and your poison. It’s another thing altogether when farmer’s market vendor knows your preference in tomatoes. I love it.
Most of us know about the lazy farmer’s market, the one on Sunday afternoons outside Rainbow Blossom on Lexington. But do you know that’s where the best little tomatoes in Louisville are to be found?
I shouldn’t be giving away my secret for fear that I won’t get my share of these delicacies tomorrow – but I’m safe because the “Mater Man” is holding back a bowl of Sun Sugars for me.
Greg Gall of Honey Suckle Farm in Laneseville, Indiana, is one of several tomato sellers at this Sunday market. And no disrespect to the others – their tomatoes are fine indeed – but the colorful assortment Greg sells at $3 a bowl are better than candy. I don’t like candy all that much actually, so I’ll say better than berries.
Look for the stall about midway down the row of vendors, and the plastic tub with the red bowl in it. Greg is a big gregarious guy that is likely to be encouraging visitors to pop a juicy tomato in their mouths as you approach. You’re free to paw through the marvelous array of tomatoes ranging from barely bigger than a pebble to golf-ball size in the tub, and exclaim all you like over the orange, the pink, the violet, the lemon-yellow and the nearly white -- not to mention red -- tomatoes.
Fun names accompany the tomatoes: Pink Ping Pong, Sun Sugar, Snow White, Green Grape, Black Cherry, Isis Candy, Candy Drops, Black Pear and Yellow Pear could well be the names of slushy flavors, but they’re all monikers of heirloom tomatoes. And Greg is known as the Mater Man for good reason. He knows – and loves – this stuff. Ask him all the questions you want about the tomatoes. It’s a joy to listen to someone so passionate about what they grow. And the longer you stand there, the more he’ll encourage you to taste – good reason to linger!
The tomatoes are all fiercely flavorful, bursting with sweet juice, and irresistible once you’ve started. I’ve taken a bowl home meaning to put them in a salad, only to methodically put them away one after another before dinner. My favorite, though, is the Sun Sugar. Aptly named, it’s the color of a crayon rendition of the sun, and sweeter than any berry. I can’t even make it home in the car without plucking them all out and devouring them. Jeff knows it’s my favorite, therefore his promise to put aside a bowl for me tomorrow.
Get there before 2 if you want to find more than an empty tub littered with tiny tomato leaves. Or get to know the Mater Man so you, too, can relax on Sunday in the knowledge that your own bowl of Louisville’s best little tomatoes are waiting for you.