I recently asked friends and followers on social media where we should venture for our upcoming analysis of the best apple cider donuts in New England. Dozens of answers rang in, with roughly one in every three respondents recommending that we head to Wilson Farm in Lexington.
Consider it a plan. In the meantime, before cinnamon and gourd season arrives, there are several other natural wonders that are worth picking and plucking, and which farmers at Wilson cultivate prolifically.
While Corn Fest is behind us, this coming weekend (Aug 25-26) Wilson hosts Tomato Fest, which the team in Lexington says is one of their truly outstanding festivities. I reached out to the farm’s promotions manager Jon Latessa to ask about the free event, plus tomato growing, foodie fantasies, and of course, warm sugary donuts.
What’s your best line to lure people to Tomato Fest?
Tomato Fest is one of our favorite events because we are able to highlight the 20 different varieties of tomatoes we grow every year. The festival allows for our shoppers to sample an assortment of our fantastic heirlooms and taste the subtle differences between each of them.
Customers will be able to grab recipe ideas that incorporate tomatoes into many dishes and sample tomato dishes from our kitchen, which is led by Chef Raymond Ost. Finally, we will be featuring over 10 local vendors, including Johnny Macaroni Marinara (Bridgewater), Fiorella’s Marinara (Newton), and Seven Hills Pasta (Melrose). Tomato Fest is 100 percent free and includes face painting.
You call the event “a foodie’s dream come true” and bill Wilson Farm as a business that has “been able to move from just a ‘farm stand’ to a true destination for foodies throughout the state of Massachusetts and beyond.” Please explain, defend yourself.
Wilson Farm takes food very seriously. For 134 years, [we have] grown impeccable produce straight from our fields—we have over 30 acres of farmland in Lexington and 400-plus acres in Litchfield, New Hampshire. Wilson Farm is proud to employ team members who share the passion for food and the willingness to share their passion with our shoppers. We love when shoppers come to the farm loaded with questions and the desire to try new, unique foods.
Three years ago, Chef Raymond Ost took over our kitchen. Chef Ost is a master chef of France, one of the most envied titles a chef aspires to have. The mission of a master chef of France is to “preserve, advance and perpetuate the tradition of great French cuisine.” Chef Ost creates outstanding to-go meals using produce that is harvested steps away from our kitchen. On any given day you can find top-notch dishes such as braised lamb stew with apricots and plum, or pan-roasted scallops with risotto waiting to be taken home and devoured.
Beyond our kitchen, Wilson Farm has world-class treats in our bakery. We offer a huge assortment of in-house-made cookies, muffins, brownies, pies, breads, and more—plus my favorite, our 7-Layer Bar. We have three ridiculously talented cake decorators who have the ability to turn a piece of cake into pretty much any object you can possibly imagine. Our cheese department has 200 varieties of locally made, domestic, and imported cheeses. Our meat and fish are carefully selected by our butchers and fishmongers. Our grocery items are unique and selected to complement our wonderful fresh produce, meats, and cheeses. You’ll find milk in old-fashioned glass bottles, our own fresh eggs from right in Lexington. Locally made jams, spreads, and preserves; local honey; nut butters; dried pasta; and a delicious assortment of candies and decadent chocolates.
Since I have your ear, I could use some advice for my tomatoes at home—Roma, beefsteak, and some small sweet ones. They’re all only starting to come in now. Did I do something wrong?
You most likely didn’t do anything wrong! It’s been a crazy summer with all of this rain. All of this repetitive rainfall hasn’t allowed the soil to dry out and let the plants flourish. Another thing to consider … tomato plants need a decent amount of space between each plant to make sure the sun hits them for at least eight hours, which doesn’t have to be consecutive.
Of all the different types of tomatoes you grow, what are you best known for?
Shoppers really love our heirlooms, especially the Pineapple and Striped German variety. Both of these are large fruits with orangey yellow skin with a sweet and citrusy tang. Outside of the heirlooms, shoppers always love our beefsteaks.
Lastly, we hope to make the rounds to every place that makes apple cider donuts in the region, and Wilson Farm came up a bunch of times in our crowdsource. Considering that we are going to be ranking these things, would you like to put in a good word for the ones we will chow down on in Lexington?
Yessssssss! It’s almost apple cider donut season. Apple cider donuts are for sale throughout the year at the farm, but every weekend in September and October, we have them made hot, which is, in my opinion, the only way to eat them. The sweets are made on a vintage 1960s donut machine—one of the few left in the world—and are tossed to perfection in a mixture of cinnamon sugar.
What else do people need to know?
Our annual Tomato Fest will feature samples from Wilson Farm’s own resident chef Raymond Ost and tasting stations offering selections from our on-site kitchen and bakery. My favorite part of the event is our heirloom tomato table, where we sample 15 heirloom varieties, all of which are grown in our fields.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.