A family celebrates Italian heritage by growing tomatoes

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — With the Italian Heritage Festival set to kick off this week, a Clarksburg native is growing tomatoes that weigh about three pounds each and come from the Swiss settlement area of ​​the state called Helvetia.

These Swiss natives brought with them their favorite tomatoes from France, Germany and Italy. According to the story, told by Clarksburg native Michael Malfregoet, a colony man in the 1800s pollinated each country’s three tomatoes until he got the best attributes from all three tomatoes. Malfregeot said growing tomatoes with his wife and sons is something he looks forward to every year and cooking their favorite Italian dishes.

Tomatoes that have been passed down from generation to generation of family members.

“From the French he got the dense fruit with the low seeds, from the Germans he got the big sturdy size, from the Italians he got the rich flavor and color,” Malfregot said. “So using his knowledge and again this method of cross-pollination, even in the late 1800s he developed what we now call the Mountaineer.”

Malfregeot added that it is not a tomato that can be bought in stores or even one that is found at a farmers market. He said the seeds have been passed down from generation to generation. Further, Malfregeot said that as people moved, the seeds moved and they were brought to the Edgewood and Gore area of ​​Harrison County, which he says could have happened. produce in the early 1920s.

“About 15 years ago I was working in the bank and I had a client who came to us and talked to us about tomatoes and we found out it was the tomato, and it was the tomato that had been passed down from generation to generation. generation in this area of ​​Edgewood, Gore,” Malfregeot said.

Most of the tomatoes Malfregot grows, he gives to his neighbors or uses in some old-world Italian recipes. He said he likes to pull the first tomato off the vine of the season to make a tomato sandwich with his family.

“So we have a lot of old recipes and family traditions on the Italian side, certainly recipes for making sauce. It is therefore an excellent tomato that we will use at the end of the season when we have to be too robust. They usually arrive at the same time, so you have to find something to do with them,” Malfregot said. “Tomatoes are the quintessence of Italy and we all know tomatoes from pizza and sauces. So, you know, using that aspect and being able to develop it here, here in my own home, really feels like you’re connected to your family history.

As a family, Malfregeot said watching her young sons plant tomato seeds and watching them grow through the season knowing they can’t kick balls or play in the garden is one thing. that he learned growing up. His sons help him all season, pulling weeds, trimming and cutting, as well as working in the compost heap. He said his four-year-old enjoys playing in the compost heap digging up worms.

The Malfregeot family said gardening and growing tomatoes is a great experience.