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The Tomato stands as Sacramento’s unofficial fruit of the summer. Local farmers’ markets and grocery stores are brimming with beautiful tomatoes of varying shapes, sizes and colors. During harvest, a faint tomato scent perfumes the warm air of nearby fields. And at The Kitchen, we look forward to the bountiful summertime tomato season and using the best fruit from our local farmers.

The summer season in Sacramento is a wonderful reminder of how flavorful tomatoes can be when passionately and sustainably grown to produce fruit with pure and bold flavors. Watanabe Farms in West Sacramento keeps these principles at the forefront of their farming. The Watanabes grow over 40 varieties of delicious tomatoes, from plump and colorful heirlooms, to sweet and bite sized cherry tomatoes, to perfectly red and oval Romas.

Watanabe Farms’ heirloom tomatoes and squash

This family-owned farm has been around for 70 years, and their seven acres of organically grown produce is run by husband and wife team, Clark & Heidi Watanabe. The duo put care into every step of the growing process. Heidi Watanabe delivers her produce within 24 hours of it being harvested and she is frequently in and out of The Kitchen, Ella, and Selland’s after spending her mornings tending to the crops. When Watanabe is unable to deliver to us, our chefs will visit her at the local farmers’ markets to pick up her produce.

Green Tomatoes from Watanabe Farms
Green Tomatoes from Watanabe Farms

In the early 2000’s, Heidi met Chef Randall Selland at the Cal Expo Farmers’ Market after being introduced by another local farmer. Since then, the relationship between Watanabe Farms, The Kitchen, and the rest of the Selland Family Restaurants has grown exponentially. The bond has surpassed that of farmer and chef, developing into family that aspires to bring Sacramento delicious meals made with flavorful, sustainably grown produce.

Fried Green Tomato "BLT" for the June 2016 Menu at The Kitchen
Fried Green Tomato “BLT” for the June 2016 Menu at The Kitchen

The Kitchen and Watanabe Farms epitomize the ideal farm-to-fork relationship. Every summer for the last 15 years we have celebrated the sweet fruit and bounty from their harvest, and now Kitchen Chef Kelly McCown has continued that bond. Sadly, with the end of harvest in 2016, Clark and Heidi Watanabe will be wrapping up their days as farmers, giving Sacramento its last taste of some of the region’s best tomatoes, peaches, squash and more. Being so hands on has taken it toll, and the dynamic farming duo has decided to rest a bit and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Fittingly, Chef Kelly and The Kitchen team will be honoring their contributions to the Sacramento culinary landscape with an August 2016 Menu dedicated to Watanabe Farms and their signature crop, the tomato.

Clark and Heidi Watanabe

Photo Credit: California Farm Bureau Federation