By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On a late summer morning in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, when Adam Marschke has a day off from his regular job, he’s certainly still working.

“Love – hate is a little strong of a term. I love it all the time,” said Marschke, as he snipped another heirloom tomato off the vine.

Late August to mid-September is the season his friends call “Marschke Madness.”

“This year I have 130 plants, I have nine different varieties. They’re all heirloom varieties,” he said.

Tomatoes like Rossa Sicilian, Dark Galaxy and Green Zebra, all growing robustly, at the perfect point of ripeness.

“The tomatoes aren’t really work for me,” Marscke said. “It’s a work-intensive hobby so I get a lot out of it.”

Adam’s love for tomatoes comes as a gardener, as an eater, but also as a chef.

“I’ve been cooking since I was 15,” said the 32-year-old sous chef at The Bachelor Farmer in the North Loop of Minneapolis.

“I really like BLTs, tomatoes are one of my favorite fruits or veggies, whatever you want to call it,” he laughed.

Marshcke grew up in Stillwater, cooked in Hawaii and California. When he came home, he was going to use his uncle’s land to maybe start a farmer’s market stand.

Instead, he got his bosses at The Bachelor Farmer to buy his Atomic Grape and Blue Goldberries and put them on the menu.

“We like to do a lot with tomatoes when they hit, so having nice colors to work with on a plate and make it look colorful is what I’m going for,” he explained.

In the “Toasts” section of the menu at the end of summer, you’ll find a platter with homemade cheese and a stunning array of Marshcke’s tomatoes. The depth of flavor is surprising, considering the simplicity.

“A couple tomatoes, nice olive oil, fleur de sel, sea salt,” he said.

It is a stunning dish – as if Rothko assembled the various hues of red. Those tomatoes sit in stark contrast to a creamy, homemade cow’s milk cheese.

“It’s a great story for our servers to tell,” said Marshcke, the tomatoes on the plate, come from the farm of the chef.

“My time off for the summer is pretty much accounted for,” he laughed.

Twelve hours a week training the vines, weeding the fields: a tremendous effort that’s taught this chef about the long road every ingredient takes.

“It’s a big learning opportunity to see when I have my product in the kitchen,” Marshcke said. “I can take that feeling, so I have a zucchini here, I know someone worked just as hard to produce that too. It gives you perspective.”

From seed to harvest, from the kitchen to the plate, you can see why Adam thinks Marshcke Madness is the best time of the year.

“It’s really cool,” he said.

The Bachelor Farmer, 50 N. 2nd Ave., Minneapolis 612-206-3920

Jason DeRusha