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Cooperative Extension hosts Tomato Palooza

The fruit of the plant with the genus and species solanum lycopersicum has long been a favorite for many gardens.

From ketchup to marinara sauce, salsa and more, the culinary world relies on those fruits called tomatoes.

Many states and countries host annual tomato festivals allowing gardeners to compete for honors in taste, size and other categories.

For the first time, Stanly County hosted its own tomato tasting contest on Thursday at the Agri-Civic Center.

Entitled Tomato Palooza, the event was hosted by the Stanly County Cooperative Extension Service.

The competition was divided up among three types of tomatoes: hybrid, heirloom and cherry.

Dustin Adcock, an extension agent in charge of field crops and horticulture, said some of the heirloom tomatoes were from varieties a couple of hundred years ago.

“(The event) is something done a lot of places; we are just trying it here,” Adcock said.

Regarding the heirloom, Adcock said “by definition they are true to seed. You can pollinate them, save the seed this year, plant them next year and they will be the same.”

The heirloom samples at the event included five varieties of German Johnson tomatoes,

“Depending on where you got your seed from, you may have a German Johnson seed that tastes different then someone else’s based on where its grown,” Adcock said.

Different minerals in the ground alter the taste along with the amount of watering as well.

Adcock said there is still a lot of interest in gardening, noting the number of calls and emails he receives.

“I think it’s a new concept as far as tasting; there is tons of interest. I hope people see this and realize they missed out on it, then plan for it next year,” Adcock said.

Home gardening has seen a good amount of growth, according to Adcock, adding “everyone seems to be interested in it.”

Awards were given for taste, size and for the most unique tomato in each category.

Vandora and Coy Furr led the way in the hybrid category, taking first place for their lighter-colored Carolina Gold tomatoes.

Chad Austin and Joanne Hesley earned first place in taste in the heirloom division for their German Johnson tomatoes. The pair also won for largest heirloom tomatoes.

In the cherry division, Stokes County’s Ron Simmons tied with Chad Austin for first place.

“I hoping this is something which brings fun and a resurgence of cultural things in the county. A lot of gardeners don’t get a chance to show off their diversity. I’m hoping it will bring kids out in the future, get them trying different things,” Adcock said.

Adcock also said the event has the potential to be educational in the future for kids as well as for gardeners to be able to exchange information.

“Teaching the differences between a slicing and cherry tomato, different ways of using them and the concept of how flavors develop, you can learn a lot there, ” Adcock said.

Complete Results

Hybrid

Taste: 1st – Carolina Gold (Vandora and Coy Furr); 2nd – Better Boy No. 3 (Vandora and Coy Furr); 3rd – Celebrity No. 4 (Chad Austin and Joanne Hesley).

Most Original – Carolina Gold.

Largest – Better Boys.

Heirloom

Taste: 1st – German Johnson No. 4 (Chad Austin and Joanne Hesley); 2nd – Cherokee Purple No. 3 (The Furrs).

Most Original – Black Krim (Ron Simmons).

Largest – German Johnson No. 4 (Chad Austin and Joanne Hesley).

Cherry

Taste: 1st (tie) – Sun Sugar No. 2 (Ron Simmons) and Sugar Sweet No. 4 (Chad Austin).

Most Unique – Black Cherry (Oakboro STEM School garden).

Largest – Black Cherry (Oakboro STEM School garden).

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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