Tomato Tasting Time: Planning a Fun Garden Party


| 8/16/2013 11:10:00 AM


Tags: heirloom tomatoes, gardening in the southeast, Ira Wallace, Virginia,

tomato tastingA perfectly ripe heirloom tomato is one of the great joys of summer, eagerly anticipated by gardeners all over the Southeast. I really like introducing folks to the many varieties we shepherd here at Southern Exposure.

Every year we host big tastings with 50-100 varieties of tomatoes plus dozens of peppers and melons at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, Va., and the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR at Seven Springs, Pa.

But a tomato tasting need not be such a large affair. A group of friends can get together in someone’s backyard or garden. Put up some tables, spread out everyone’s heirloom tomatoes and enjoy the taste. If this sounds like fun, here are some tips for organizing your own heirloom tomato party.

1. Pick a date when lots of tomatoes will be at their peak in your location. Here in central Virginia that period starts around August 1 and ends on mid-September. If the organizer is a new gardener or new to the area, ask lots of experienced local gardeners.

2. Next you need tomatoes – lots of different tomatoes. You can either grow them all yourself or have group of your gardening friends each bring different varieties. If you host alone you can augment with different exciting varieties from your local farmers market, where you can depend on trusted local farmers to tell you exactly which tomato you are buying. Here are a few of the varieties that are perennial favorites for my friends and gardening neighbors: Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Green Zebra, Garden Peach, Brandywine, Large Red, Amy’s Apricot, Matt’s Wild Cherry. Or you can see which varieties are favorites at the Monticello Tomato Tasting.heirloom tomatoes

3. Make a plan and arrange the labeled tomatoes attractively. You will probably have a lot more than your guests can eat so only slice up one or two of each tomatoes of each variety.




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