However you pronounce it, you need to be at the National Heirloom Exposition, a one-of-a-kind vegetable and seed extravaganza running Sept. 13-15 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.
Besides showcasing a dizzying array of varieties of the juicy red orbs, hundreds of seed companies, farmers, gardeners, chefs and food organizations will gather together for what is thought to be the largest event for heritage agriculture ever held in the United States.
America’s top growers from all 50 states and food celebrities from around the world will host workshops and demonstrations, against a cornucopia-rich back drop of some 2,000 varieties of heirloom produce on display.
That means beans, lettuces, apples, pumpkins, and boutique beauties like Purple Haze carrots and Buddha’s Hand fruit spread out like a virtual candy box of ravishing flavors and textures. You might even see a square watermelon, which really exists (it’s nutritionally no different than a normal round watermelon, just cooler to look at since it’s molded into shape while growing).
It’s true, there really are veggie celebs: Just one headline name is uber-organic chef Alice Waters, sharing her insight alongside experts exploring the dangers of GMOs (genetically modified Frankenfoods), tips for healthy eating, and the overall delicious history of our culinary heritage. Secrets will be shared, on topics like seed saving, home gardening, marketing, food politics and farming.
Other highlights include a mobile bee observatory, culinary film screenings, cooking demonstrations (from seed to skillet), and you-know-you-want-to-see-it novelties like plowing with pigs, plus a Farmer-Chef Throwdown from the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena.
Plan to bring the kids, too, for great music, food, and an edible education. This may be the only the time they actually demand to eat their vegetables, tempted by tastings of hundreds of bright, beautiful tomatoes in intriguing names ranging from elegant (Brandywine, Blue Fruit), to precious (God Love, Peace Vine), to bizarre (Ding Wall Scotty, Mortgage Lifter, Olga’s Round Yellow Chicken, Pink Ping Pong).
Tickets cost just peanuts, (adult 1-day pass $10; adult 3-day pass $25, kids 17 and under free), and all proceeds go to benefit school garden and food programs. If you buy online, by the way, you get extra goodies, including 30 percent off the menu price at the Expo’s Showcase Café, a free packet of heirloom seeds, and preferred seating as available at seminars.