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Why the world's best tomatoes come from Hanover County

Posted at 10:32 AM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-19 17:27:46-04

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- The world's best tomatoes come from Hanover County, Virginia. And some of Hanover's best tomatoes are grown at Village Garden Farm.

"Amazing soil here," founding farmer David Hunsaker said about his Hanover farm tucked away on 10 acres near Kersey Creek. "We are east of the fall line in Hanover County. There's plenty of Hanover County that really does not have our soil. If you're west of I-95, you're on the other side of the fall line. And you don't have this glorious, Coastal Plain soil that we have."

He went on to explain what exactly makes the soil so great,

"It starts with what God gave us to work with. We're Coastal Plain here, but where the Coastal Plain meets the Piedmont," he said. "So there's lots of sand but there's also red clay. Clay is one of the most nutritious soils. It's just locked up and very difficult for plants to access because it's so dense. And so you combine this sandy soil that we have with the red clay, and our 10 acres were never farmed before because it really does lie right on the creek. The old forest loam that's been shed here from the trees, it makes [the land] incredibly fertile. And so we have kind of that perfect trifecta of nutrition, drainage, and fertility."

It is that soil, Hunsaker and his partner Barbara Hollingsworth, said, that helps keep Hanover tomatoes consistently great.

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Village Garden tomatoes

"You eat with your eyes as much as your tongue. So if you've got these beautiful fruits there and the textures are perfect, and the colors are beautiful. That's certainly going to amplify it," Hunsaker said. "I don't know that you'd really be able to sit down on a blind tasting and have a clue [whether or not a tomato was from Hanover]. But if you found tomatoes that didn't taste as good. They're probably not a Hanover tomato."

A recent write-up on Food and Wine went into great detail about the soil that helps Hanover produce "the best heirloom tomatoes."

Over the last decade or so, Village Garden has grown from a farmer's market mainstay to one of the most sought-after providers of tomatoes for Central Virginia chefs.

"It's really hard to keep up," Hunsaker said. "We continually have new people who hit us up. And depending upon the harvest time, it's like, well, we may have some for you in a few weeks."

The garden recently teamed up with several Virginia restaurants to pair their Hanover tomatoes with Barboursville Vineyards wine in a series of Supper, Summer, and Somm dinners.

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Village Garden tomatoes

Village Garden tomatoes are also featured in several of Duke's Mayo #HotTomatoSummer dishes available this week at participating Richmond restaurants.

Learn about all the events, the tomatoes, and David and Barbara on this week's episode of Eat It, Virginia!

This week's episode is sponsored by Duke's Mayo.

Why Hanover produces the country's best tomatoes