My interest in tomatoes really started taking off in the mid 1980s after I turned my focus to growing heirlooms, joined the Seed Savers Exchange and started amassing the way-too-large collection of varieties that now sits in my office (well, seeds, not tomatoes - they are a few months away). I was first approached by a publisher to write a book on tomatoes a long time ago - in the early 1990s - but it didn't feel like the right time to tackle such a project. Our children were young, I was in the midst of my professional career, and it seemed that there was still so much for me to learn. In the years since, the tomato hobby hasn't waned in the least - it has morphed, evolved, and grown. The desire to write it down persisted, though, and thanks to my Nova Scotia gardening pal and garden writer Niki Jabbour (who planted a bug in her editor's ear), Storey publishing contacted me a few years ago to gauge my interest in finally writing that tomato book.
The summer of 2012 was about getting the front work done, such as the proposal, draft table of contents, and finalizing the contract. On our annual autumn escape to Ocracoke Island, in October of that year, I opened up my laptop and dove in. Somehow, between then and the end of June last year, the first draft was completed, and I emailed to my editor Carleen a 210 page, 90K word file. Last year also saw various photo-shoots, and from fall last year and continuing now, it is about editing and finalizing the text. I found out a few things along the way; being able to touch type (at near 100 words per minute - that 7th grade typing class was the best!), combined with being really ready to let the information just flow out, allowed me to work in nice bursts with ample breaks in between. Some parts came easy, others required quite a bit of research - so I ended up learning a lot along the way as well.
It has been a very interesting experience. Over the years I've given many lectures and workshops on tomatoes, and in a way, the book is a large scale expansion of many of those talks. Though my passion and greatest knowledge concentration is in heirloom varieties and the history of the various tomato varieties developed in the US from the 1870s until the hybrid boom that started in the late 1940s with the release of Burpee's Big Boy, the book will cover pretty much all things tomato - history, culture, disease and pest, varieties, and a few of my favorite ways to use and preserve them. If all goes well, it will come across as a book that is reflective of my own adventures and journeys through all of my gardens over the last 33 years.