On a cold, gray, rainy day last March Nagisa Manabe had an idea: why not create a celebration of the tomato? After all, the colorful tomato is the iconic New Jersey vegetable, and there really is nothing like it when picked fresh off the vine. And while many people might have had such a wishful idea, Manabe is one of the few, if not the only one, who could actually pull off such a celebration in Princeton. And that’s why there will be a Festomato! in Hinds Plaza on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This is a tomato celebration that literally goes beyond bounds. There will be a tomato-tasting featuring 50 organically grown varieties outside on the plaza and lectures inside the Princeton Public Library; there will be cooking demonstrations and a canning workshop; there will be activities for children; there will be dining samples featuring new tomato-based recipes such as tomato jam and tomato sorbet; there will be a tomato-based alternative to tuna called Ahimi (you have to taste it to believe it); and much, much more.
So, how was Manabe able to pull this off in less than six months? First, she had to convince the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ), where she serves on the board of directors, that it was a good idea. That wasn’t difficult: In the late 1980s NOFA-NJ had sponsored a tomato-featured cooperative that closed after a few years because demand outstripped supply. More recently, it has been a close partner with the Princeton Public Library’s Environmental Film Festival.