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The Heirloom Tomato  

From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World's Most Beautiful Fruit
By Amy Goldman
Photographs by Victor Schrager
Copyright 2002
176 pages

Books are some of the greatest treasures we have in this life. Few, if any, other objects have the universal ability to make us laugh, to make us cry, to entertain us, to inspire us and to teach us. Fictional literature, the art of storytelling, entertains, inspires and sometimes teaches us by making us laugh, cry, think and appreciate. Non-fiction literature serves a different purpose. Its focus is to teach or inform us. Exceptional non-fiction literature teaches and informs us in an entertaining way which inspires us and causes us to think and to be appreciative.

Amy Goldman's books are some of the best non-fiction literature created in the fledgling 21st century, and with her newest book, The Heirloom Tomato, she has demonstrated that her skills as a writer, researcher and gardener are only becoming more refined. In my opinion, The Heirloom Tomato is the best book ever written on the tomato.

For more than 6 years now Ms. Goldman has collaborated with Victor Schrager, an accomplished photographer with exceptional talent. During the process of creating three extraordinary books on three of America's most beloved fruits and vegetables, these two have forged a partnership which allows these two to communicate to their readers with a singleness of purpose that I have never encountered in any other literary partnership. Undoubtedly inspired by Amy's passion, her years of meticulous research and the abundance from her extensive trial gardens, Victor has created photographs which communicate to the reader the beauty, delicacy, even sensuality of these fruits and vegetables and, in some cases, the images are so exceptional you can almost recall the fragrance and the flavor.

The Heirloom Tomato is first and foremost a comprehensive resource on the tomato, beginning with a well written primer on growing, harvesting and saving the seed of tomatoes followed by a detailed archive, describing for approximately 200 different tomatoes, the size, weight, shape, skin color, flesh color, sweetness, flavor, texture, uses, plant habit, leaf type, yield, maturity, origins, synonyms, seed sources and history. As is true with all of her books, the facts contained in this resource material are well researched and reliable. The book is also a compendium of tomato recipes some of which are quite unique like the dessert recipe, Galette of White Peaches and Tomatoes, and the drink recipe, Tomato Water.

The Heirloom Tomato is also a gentle book, and it is this aspect of its character that moves it from the realm of good non-fiction literature to exceptional non-fiction literature. This book, like Goldman's other two books, Melons for the Passionate Grower and The Compleat Squash, are not "one-time reads". The Heirloom Tomato is the kind of book you will look to for inspiration on a cold winter day in front of a warm fire. You will return year after year to page 15 to stare at those black tipped fingers ever so gently cradling that magnificent red tomato or to page 248 to view, yet again, the absolutely perfect still life entitled, Thai Pink Bouquet. It is the resource you will seek out and come to depend upon, when after strolling through someone's vegetable garden, you spy a tomato you have never seen before. This is a book for learned gardeners, novice gardeners, chefs, cooks and even people who do not like to garden or cook, but just love the tomato. This book will teach and inform you, it will inspire you and cause you to pause and think, but most of all, after the first read and the many, many reads that will follow, it will endow you with an even greater appreciation for the tomato.

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