“I’ll never forget the day I first put that tomato in my mouth,” Page-Mann said. “Visually, it’s so darling. The shape is just endearing as well. The flavor and the texture -- it’s so creamy and so sweet -- it’s really the best of all worlds.” Looking a bit like a tiny apple, the meaty, blocky and yes, vividly gold and bronze striped Cherry Ember -- seeds for which are now available through Fruition Seeds -- may be born and bred of the Finger Lakes.
Because, as Phillip Griffiths said, “Quality of food is the same as quality of life.” Griffiths is associate professor of horticulture in the School of Integrative Plant Science, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca.
In the United Kingdom, Griffiths studied genetics at the University of Nottingham -- “Where Robin Hood is from,” he joked -- and received his master’s degree for his work with rye grass at the University of Wales. He came to the United States and in the 1980s earned his doctorate working with tomatoes in Arizona and Florida, before coming to Cornell. He earned tenure in the early 2000s and was granted the flexibility to work on passion projects through the Friday Afternoon Project as a result.
That meant a return to tomatoes; or rather, to work toward producing a better tomato. “After tenure, I got more interested in the heirlooms and a lot of the variations in shapes and colors,” Griffiths said. And when it comes to cherry tomatoes, their functionality.
Fruition Seeds in Naples is selling Cherry Ember cherry tomato seeds, but seed starting is not easy, according to founder Petra Page-Mann. "It's important to learn to ride a bike with someone who loves you, knows you’re going to fall off and is going to be right there to say, ‘You got this!’" Page-Mann said.
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