Design New England

Around New England: Defiant Tomatoes

By William Morgan

Photo credits: William Morgan

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It has not been a great year for tomatoes. The succulent fruit that defines the success of one’s summer garden has been at least a month late this year.

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But this has not deterred Harold Ward (above), the person who knows more about tomatoes than anyone I know. The chemist, lawyer, and founder of Brown University’s environmental studies program shepherded 20-some varieties in his garden along the Wood River in rural southern Rhode Island.

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Both scientist and gracious host, Ward annually invites my wife and me down to his place to taste a dozen examples of the summer’s crop. The 12 varieties included some old standbys, such as Cherokee Purple, Persimmon, Brandywine, and Fourth of July. But the names can get fancy: Fremgens Rheinlands Ruhm, Black Krim, and Mr. Bruno.

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Like a wine tasting, one cleanses the palette, but with lightly fried patty pan squash. Any fresh garden-grown tomato can suggest summer, but my nod in this contest went to the Defiant, a tomato that is resistant to both early and late blight. It might not have been a great summer for tomato growers, but it was a great day for us tasters.

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