A Hamburger Today
Snapshots from Sweden: Vikentomater, a Tomato Farm With Over 80 Kinds of Tomatoes
From June 5 to June 11, I visited Western and Southern Sweden on a trip sponsored by Visit Sweden, West Sweden Tourist Board, Skåne Tourist Board, and Volvo as part of their CAR + VACATION contest. Here's a look at something I ate during my trip.
"I min mat, på min macka och i mitt hjärta." If Vikentomater's endearing slogan, "In my food, on my sandwich and in my heart," doesn't grab you, maybe their boxes upon boxes of vibrant, gleaming tomatoes in different shapes (perfectly round, oblong, asymmetrically blobular), sizes (bite- to monster fist-sized), and colors (reds, purples, yellows, greens, striped)—more kinds in one spot than I had ever seen before in my life—will do the trick. You think you don't like tomatoes? Maybe Vikentomater has the tomato for you. Allergic to red tomatoes? You'll find plenty of others here.
Vikentomater is a tomato wonderland in Sweden's southernmost county, Skåne; they grow 86 tomato varieties among their 25,000 plants in 10,000 square meters of greenhouse. Gunnel and Kjell Olofsson founded the business in 1964, but their tomato selection didn't get kicked into overdrive until 1996 when their son Mats took charge of the company. Today, Mats runs the family farm with his wife Susanne.
With so many tomatoes to choose from, not all kinds are created equal, depending on what you want to use them for. Salads, soups, grilled, dried, sauces, breads—Vikentomater recommends different tomatoes for different uses, some of which they describe in the recipes on their website. (Alas, it's all in Swedish; Google translate is pretty handy for that.)
Vikentomater doesn't just offer a wide variety of tomatoes, but tomatoes grown in a more environmentally friendly way (although they're not yet certified organic). They don't use chemical pesticides; they use a closed irrigation system where water is retained, treated, and reused; and for a growing substrate they use Icelandic pumice, which can be reused for seven years.
Vikentomater plants their seeds in mid-December and picks the first tomatoes in mid-March. They continue picking until the end of the season in mid-November, at which point the plants are nearly 12 meters long (about 39 feet) due to a growth rate of about 30 centimeters (about a foot) a week. Bundles of stalks were already looking endless during my visit, with still five months to go to November.
The cost of these special tomatoes: 80 kr per kilogram, about $5.75 per pound. Pricier than regular tomatoes (about 25 kr per kilogram), but you are getting more than regular tomatoes—ones that have won a diploma from the Gastronomiska Akademien for "extraordinary contributions to Swedish food culture."
Aside from tomatoes, they also sell jars of specially made tomato-based condiments, the result of having a tomato surplus and working with restaurants who'll make that surplus into something new. As for other solutions to having too many tomatoes, Mats says he doesn't make tomato juice, but he does make tomato wine: "It's not very, very good, but if you didn't know it was made with tomatoes, no one would know. It's interesting."
If you can't make it to the greenhouses, you may find Vikentomater tomatoes in one of the 40 supermarkets Mats and his employees deliver to. But if you can go, you should head over on a Saturday during the summer when they host a market of 10 to 15 local food producers selling bread, cheese, meat, potatoes, mushrooms, chocolate, and more.
Rågången 41, 260 40 Viken, Sweden (map)
Lat. N 56 ° 9 '55.76
Long. E 12 ° 35 '39.06
Open April to November
Mon. to Fri., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sat., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.