In July, about 150 people turned out in Guilford County to pick their favorite tomato from roughly 40 varieties planted in the spring by Master Gardeners and cared for by N.C. A&T State University researchers Dr. Keith Baldwin and Ricky Holness. The Great Tomato Tasting event was sponsored by the Guilford County staff of N.C. Cooperative Extension and N.C. A&T State University Farm.
Event organizer Karen Neill, Guilford County agriculture agent, said this event was designed to make citizens aware of the diversity amongst tomatoes and the cultivars that are out there for them to select. What better way to do this than through tasting, which was by far the most popular part of the event, held during the morning of July 17. Participants tasted a number of tomato varieties – some hybrids and some heirloom – and rated them on different criteria including appearance and taste.
The clear winners were: In the large fruited category, the Paul Robeson heirloom variety; and in the small fruited category, Sungold cherry tomatoes. The research data will be used by farmers to determine which varieties to plant next year.
Neill said the event was a good opportunity to involve all members of Guilford’s Extension team, and they hope to continue the event next year. In addition to tasting tomatoes, participants had the opportunity to buy fall tomato plants from 4-H’ers and visit with Master Gardeners, who answered questions on gardening. Tours of the farm also demonstrated how the tomatoes were grown, along with other on-farm agricultural projects of A&T researchers. Last but not least, the family & consumer sciences agents demonstrated how to prepare salsa and a fresh tomato salad, covering the nutritional value of the nations most popular vegetable.
Wick Wickliffe, Guilford County Extension director, said the event shows the true collaborative relationship between the various departments on the Guilford County Extension staff and N.C. A&T State University staff and researchers.