People out her in Westpoint, Indiana have a clear advantage when it comes time for canning tomato sauce. Hamilton’s Greenhouse, just 30 seconds down the road from me, is one of my favorite places. I was delighted to find a greenhouse so close to us when we made the decision to move to the country. They never disappoint. This family business is a labor of love. The greenhouse was begun by Glenn Hamilton who and is still run today by his wife Eva, daughter Wendy, and granddaughter Jeneva. Their selection, knowledge, and passion is all you can ask for.
Customers know to buy the “Tom Pepper” tomato. In 1987, a man from around Danville came by the greenhouse and asked Glenn if he would grow some tomatoes for him and gave him seed from tomatoes his brother had grown. The tomato was a cross between a tomato and a green pepper. The man later came back for a few plants and encouraged the Hamiltons to grow and sell them. They were amazed by the huge size, dense flesh, few seeds, thin skin, and great flavor. They christened them “Tom Pepper” and began to give them away to customers the following year to try out in their gardens. Once people saw these marvels, they kept coming back for them. They have become the number one selling tomato at Hamilton’s Greenhouse–and for good reason. All they ask is that others not sell them.
“Tom Pepper” is a big “small wonder” and a great example of the real diversity that is out there to be had if we pay attention. You can’t buy it at Wal-Mart (thank goodness) or from a seed rack at the grocery store. This tomato is right here. It’s a wonderful story, a great tomato, and most importantly for me, available from great neighbors that I am happy to call friends.
For years, I have been dropping not-so-subtle hints that if they ever needed help, I would be glad to come and pitch in. This year, I got to help up-pot flower plugs into flats and help work the till one Friday night. I was a gardening rock star.