Personal tools
You are here: Home Stories Memories of a Red Tomato Town
Document Actions

Memories of a Red Tomato Town

John Eisele remembers the sights and smells of red tomatoes that were once common in Davis.

Submitted by:  John Eisele; 11/08/06
This entry relates to past
Category(ies) of this entry:  Businesses

    Years ago, like in the 70's and 80's, summertime in Davis was filled with the sights and smells of red tomatoes.  In every direction fields were red with ripening tomatoes, and streets were red with big double rigged tomato trucks.  Off the street the spilled tomatoes could be picked up by the armful unless they were too squashed.  Everywhere there was tomato smell, and tomato smoke came from Hunts Tomato plant on Cove, where they boiled the tomatoes in big vats day and night, trucks drove up night and day.

    In south Davis, where I live, the Delta breeze would fill our houses with the aroma from tomatoes on the vine.  It was delicious, but not delicious all day and all night!  You see, Solanum Lycopersicum, the genus and the species of the tomato plant, overwhelmed the Davis environment from July to September. Many Davisites grew Early Girl, Big Boy, and Heirloom tomatoes,  always producing more than they consumed, so tomatoes rotted in their backyards. No, you couldn't avoid smelling tomatoes in those days.  And what fun it was to watch the pickers and sorters on those funny wagons moving slowly across the tomato rows to the tune of mariachi music!

    In the 90's Davis developed its own tomato called Flavr Savr which ripened on the vine and had a long shelf life, which meant you didn't have to rush them to market.  That stirred a controversy because many folks didn't want to buy so-called unnatural tomatoes.  That plus the questionable flavor in a few years doomed the Flavr Savr out of existence.  Then came another tomato set-back; Hunt's Tomato Co., which hired many Davis students, closed its Davis processing plant.

    Finally, farmers in south Davis decided to grow sod instead of tomatoes.  So, where have all the tomatoes gone?  Well, they are still in our backyards, since we've learned how healthy the Lycopines from tomatoes are.  But let's admit it, we are no longer a red tomato town!  In fact we never were a red patch on the political map.

This site provided with the assistance of the Davis Community Network.