Monday, June 15, 2009

Whapsipi what?

Wapsipinicon: Tomato, River, and History lesson.

When there was still snow on the ground and TomatoFest seemed as far off as outdoor bike rides, I selected the Wapsipinicon Peach from the Baker Creek Seed catalogue as one of the few experimental tomatoes to grow this year. Selecting a reasonable amount of new breeds to try is one of the greatest challenges I face during the seed buying process. Each new plant might be the best I have ever grown, or maybe, even though someone else had great success, it might be a bust in our climate. In order to find out, I have to cede the garden space of at least one tried and true variety, which must be akin to the feeling a gambler has when doubling down at the Black Jack table. No one ever seems to understand the anguish this causes me.

The Wapsipinicon Peach made the cut for a number of reasons. First, it is a "peach" tomato, which means it looks and feels a bit like a peach; fuzzy and light orange, yellow. Diversity of flavor, texture and color is important to me. Second, it looked like many people have had great success with the variety, calling it a "favorite peach" and "great addition" to their collection. Reading with my blinders on, I completely ignored the references to where the tomato is from and focused only on flavor and color.

With this backgroung in mind, I almost fell off my bike this weekend at the Tour of the Mississippi River Valley (Tomrv) when I crossed the Wapsipinicon River, a tributary of the Mississippi. In less than two pedal strokes, I went from thoughts of cadence, mph, my right knee, and nutrition, to thoughts of peach tomatoes, and the hopes that I have that this variety will prove to be an annual member of the garden. offers this brief description of the "Wapsie" as well as an interesting collection of old photos.

The Wapsipinicon River (locally known as the Wapsie) is a tributary of the Mississippi River, approximately 225 miles long, in northeastern Iowa in the United States. It drains a rural farming region of rolling hills and bluffs north of Waterloo and Cedar Rapids.

It rises in northern Mitchell County near the Minnesota border. It flows generally southeast across rural Chickasaw, Bremer, Fayette, and Buchanan counties, past Independence and Anamosa. Along its lower 25 miles it turns east, forming the boundary between Clinton and Scott counties. It joins the Mississippi from the west approximately 10 miles southwest of Clinton.
The name of the river in the Ojibwe language is Waabizipinikaan-ziibi (river abundant in swan-potatoes), on account of the large quantity of arrowheads or wild artichokes, known as "swan-potatoes", once found near its banks. Severe flooding on the river in 1993, as part of the larger floods in region, caused widespread damage to the surrounding cropland.
So I unintentionally purchased, planted and then sold all sorts of plants named after a river that is in turn named after a wild artichoke. Too cool. I'll be playing with recipe ideas for artichokes and Wapsipincon Peach Tomatoes and would love to hear from those of you who purhased a plant. I am thinking of grilling the artichokes to match the sweetness of the tomato. Perhaps some sort of BLA sandwich? (Bacon, Wapsie Peach, and Artichoke). Sounds like it would need a really good foccacia, maybe with some black olives. Or perhaps a quick fresh pasta with Artichokes, olives and Wapsies? How about artichokes with a roasted Waspie mayonaise for dipping? The possibilities seem endless. Let me know what you come up with...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing very nice ,,,,.....

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