Category: Eat + Drink Articles
The time is ripe for Billy's heirloom tomatoes
When the calendar page turns to July, customers start lining up at Billy Allstot’s farmers’ market stall to choose from his harvest of organic heirloom tomatoes. Allstot chats with customers (some of whom he’s served for 15 years) as they choose from among the nine varieties of tomatoes that he grows on his 50-acre farm in Tonasket, in Okanogan County, where hot days, cool nights and light, sandy soil produce a fruit with a distinctive earthy flavor. Allstot’s secret for top-notch tomatoes: tending to their every need “like a mother with her child,” he says. He spends as many as 12 hours a day during growing season—which extends into October—caring for his fruit. “It’s just like being in a love affair; all it takes is a hailstorm a couple of times in a row and you go bust.”
Among the tomatoes you’ll find at Allstot’s stall: the flavorful beefsteak tomato, the mild yellow Striped German and the deep red Japanese Truffle. They range in price from $4.50 to $5.50 per pound. Billy—as he’s known by frequent market-goers—also grows peppers, eggplants, peaches, herbs and strawberries, which he sells at nine farmers’ markets, including Bellevue (Thurs., 3 p.m.–7 p.m. and Sat., 9 a.m.–2 p.m.), West Seattle (Sun., 10 a.m.–2 p.m.) and Phinney Ridge (Fri., 3 p.m.–7 p.m.). Make your way to Allstot’s stall early, though, as local chefs also vie for his sweet tomatoes; they’re featured on the menu at Lark, Sitka & Spruce and the Corson Building.