Marmande, French Heirloom

       (76 days)     This heirloom variety from France is popular throughout Europe and becoming more so in America.  The 6 to 10 ounce scarlet red fruits mature quickly and in abundance on disease resistant vines that are known to produce prolifically even in cooler summer conditions.    The taste is described variably from delicate by some to full bodied by others, but more often as slightly tangy with a true old-fashioned tomato flavor.  Whatever the description, Marmande is so well respected it has earned the moniker "the beefsteak of Europe".  The tomato variety that now bears the Marmande title was first sold by the Vilmorin Seed Company in the late 1890's.
      The citizens of Marmande celebrate their namesake tomato annually with a three day July fiesta.  According to the history of the tomato found at the Maison de la Tomato history museum in Marmande:  it was nearly 1000 years ago that the first seeds were planted by a depressed young man who had discovered the tomatoes in Peru while traveling the world trying to forget his heart's desire, Ferline, whose love he had been denied.   After his return, he planted and harvested, and set a freshly picked tomato on his windowsill to ripen.     Ferline, while passing by, saw the strange looking fruit and stopped to inquire what it could be.   The lovesick young man told Ferline that he had named his discovery in her honor.   She was so impressed, the story goes, that she no longer could resist his charms.  I suspect they lived happily ever after.   Today, in the center of downtown Marmande is a statue of the fair maiden Ferline holding a tomato.
      Ferline's favorite fruit took on such importance that 200 years later the Duke of Aquitaine (later known as Richard the Lionheart) deemed to promote and defend the Marmande by founding the Brotherhood of Tomatoes - an organization that exists to this day.
      Modern Marmande produces over 40,000 tons of tomatoes yearly.   Today 75% of the crop is produced at a constant temperature of 69 - 75 degrees and perfect humidity between 75 - 85%  in 45 acres of greenhouses just southeast of the city.