Sun Gold Tomatoes: A Secret Weapon


Photo by woodleywonderworks/Flickr CC

In my last post, I talked about heading back to school at Yale, and what that means for the Yale Farm. While waxing philosophical about the transition from summer to fall, though, I forgot a very important detail about back-to-school at Yale. I forgot to mention the Sun Gold tomatoes.

As the Communications Coordinator for the Yale Sustainable Food Project, a good chunk of what I do is get Yale students excited about food and agriculture. I have a lot of different ways of doing this, but one of my favorites relies on my own version of school supplies: every fall, I really depend on the Yale Farm's tomatoes.

These tomatoes are an important part of my communications arsenal, and I'm sharing this trade secret because it's too good to keep.

We grow a few different varieties--striped Germans and Romas are some of the other varieties--but the Sun Golds are my favorite. They are small, with about the same diameter as a quarter, they are an intense orange (the color of a pumpkin rather than a golden sun, really, but I guess "little pumpkin" isn't as enticing as a name), and they are sweet like candy.

I love all tomatoes, but the Sun Golds have a special place in my heart. They're small and perfect, and delicious, and something about the combination of all these qualities makes them magical: they get people excited about food. They're like soldiers of the sustainable food revolution, plump little orange ones with funny green hats.


Photo by Sean Fraga

The first time I volunteered at the Yale Farm, I was put to work suckering tomatoes. Four years later, I'm still here. More than one Yale administrator I work with stopped me in our office this summer: "Are those little orange tomatoes ready yet?" An alumna emailed me about visiting the Yale Farm on her way through New Haven last week; she planned to "swing by and steal some Sun Golds."

Our eggplants are beautiful, and our beets are the best I've ever tasted, but they don't inspire this kind of across-the-board devotion. I think it's probably because you can eat them right off the vine, and the connection between food and land is so immediate and so delicious. (We have similar success with the carrots in the winter: they're even more dramatic, because you can pull them out of the ground, even beneath the snow, and eat them.) As one of my colleagues pointed out the other day, "You know, they're so perfect I always forget to cook them, which seems sort of a shame." It is; they make a lovely sweet pasta sauce with the addition of a little salt and garlic and olive oil.

But I digress. The point is, these tomatoes are an important part of my communications arsenal, and I'm sharing this trade secret because it's too good to keep. If you find yourself laboring to convince those around you of the meaning and pleasure they can find through sustainably grown vegetables, and all your well-turned phrases fall on deaf ears, get thee to a farmer's market and find some tomatoes. I promise, they're magic.