The Incas and the Aztecs might have been the first to cultivate tomatoes, but people living in other cradles of civilization in modern times sure do like them.

Tomatoes from Greece and Egypt are for sale this May at the annual Birch Island Woods Plant Sale.

The Thessaloniki tomato was developed in Greece, and Picha Heritage Farm owner Terry Picha said Greek chefs and street vendors told him it is the most popular tomato in that Mediterranean country.

He said the tomato ripens early, has a mild flavor and is a beautiful bright shade of red.

Another tomato at the plant sale is the Niles Star tomato. Picha said it is a pink-hued tomato from Egypt. It is large, meaty and sweet.

“I’ve seen them measure 5 inches across when grown in the Nile River Valley,” he said.

Picha Heritage Farm is known for offering up varieties not found in stores.

“You will not find these at most garden centers,” he said.

Then there is the aronia berry. It is a chokeberry with the highest antioxidant levels of any fruit hardy to the Upper Midwest. Picha said it is easy to grow.

“It has beautiful white spring flowers that develop into glossy black berries that are used in juices, jams and wine,” he said.

Also featured — for the flower lovers — is the calibrachoa sunset compact. Calibrachoa is sometimes called “million bells” and offers colorful petunia-like flowers.

Professional horticulturalists will be on hand to answer questions and offer advice.

Proceeds of the sale benefit True Friends at Camp Eden Wood, which is just about next door to the Picha Heritage Farm in Eden Prairie.

True Friends provides a camping experience for children and adults with developmental disabilities.

“It’s a lot of fun because it’s very inclusive,” said Camp Eden Wood development officer Brooke Jensen.

Specifically, the funds will go toward scholarships for campers who might not be able to afford it.

“We are thankful for the support of the plant sale,” she said.

The Picha farm has been around since 1903, since Terry’s grandfather Frank purchased 80 acres in Hennepin County’s Eden Prairie Township.

Terry, 69, said the farm always had specialty crops, and he said he recalls picking and eating tomatoes and raspberries as a boy.


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