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California Homestead: Tomato – A Brief History, Harvesting & Avocado Toastie Recipe

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In this post we share a brief history of the tomato, photos of our own effort to plant and maintain a variety of tomatoes, and a recipe for avocado toast.

A brief history of tomatoes around the world

Tomatoes are thought to have originated in South America in the Andes Mountains. In the 1500s, the padres sent tomato seeds to Spain, and though the fruit spread throughout Europe, it saw little consumption for a couple hundred years.

In the 1700s English colonists brought the fruit to North America. During that time it was a widespread belief that tomatoes were poisonous and thus, consumption of was limited. In 1820, everything changed when a daring man in Rhode Island took it upon himself to “challenge” a tomato and eat one on the steps of public courthouse. After bravely consuming the tomato and surviving, much to the public’s amazement, the tomato’s curse was broken and people were open to planting it.

The production of the mechanical harvesters enabled farmers to explore variations on tomato seeds, creating new hybrids with the tomatoes to adjust for taste, amount of seeds and thickness of the skin.

Today there are over 2,750 different varieties of tomatoes worldwide with California accounting for 95% of all tomatoes produced in the United States.

Growing tomatoes at home

Lessons learned:

  • Know how many tomato vines you realistically want to tend to – they become unruly without a watchful eye!
  • If you are not seeing the tomato growth you like, underwater them for a few weeks. This will cause them to stress and actually product more than when they were regularly cared for. Yes, they are like cats – fickle and unpredictable.

OG Heirloom Tomatoes

Roma (Plum) Tomatoes

San Marzano tomatoes

Sadly our San Marzano tomatoes could not weather the smoke from the fires that swept through the Bay Area in 2020. We bid them farewell and have aspirations to see a next iteration thrive.

Avocado toastie with fresh tomato


  • 6 slices of bread
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups of tomatoes – sliced in halves
  • 8 fresh basil leaves – julienned
  • 2 medium avocados – mashed to preference
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic – minced
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • Arugula
  • 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Pepper to taste


  • Preheat an oven to 375 degrees.
  • Half the tomatoes and add to a bowl.
  • Chop up the basil and add to a bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, minced garlic, a pinch of salt. 
  • Pour over cherry tomatoes and basil.  Stir to combine and place on a lined baking sheet. Place in oven until blistered.
  • Mash up the avocados in a bowl with a fork. 
  • Toast bread slices.
  • Scoop the avocado on top of the toast. 
  • Layer the blistered tomatoes on top of the avocado toast.
  • Garnish with arugula, balsamic glaze and salt & pepper to taste.
  • Serve & enjoy!

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