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24 different varieties at Penn State Extension's 2013 Tomato Tasting

August 28, 2013|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Stacy Starver tries a non-traditional looking tomato at Wednesday's tomato tasting event.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — More than 150 tomato enthusiasts got a chance on Wednesday to challenge their palettes with two dozen varieties at the Penn State Extension’s 2013 Tomato Tasting.

The 13th annual event was hosted by Penn State Extension Master Gardeners of Franklin County and held at the extension office off Franklin Farm Lane in Chambersburg.

The public was invited to sample 24 different varieties of tomatoes grown at Franklin County’s Penn State Cooperative Extension Horticulture Center, Master Gardener Coordinator Linda Secrist said.

Everybody had a scoring sheet to rate the tomatoes on taste and appearance, Secrist said.

The event was started in cooperation with Steve Bogash, a commercial vegetable and fruit educator, she said.

Bogash wanted to give his commercial vegetable growers some insight into what the consumers thought were the best tasting tomatoes, Secrist said.

“If you go to a farm stand and their tomatoes are (blek) you aren’t going to go back,” she said.

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The tasting is a way for the grower to find out what the consumer likes, but it’s also a way to educate the public about the different varieties of tomatoes, Secrist said.

“Tomatoes aren’t just round, red hard balls that have no taste,” she said.

Featured at the tasting were plum-shaped tomatoes, port-wine colored Green Zebra, long pointed tomatoes, deep pink tomatoes, green tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and more.

After popping the 23rd tomato sample into her mouth, Cassandra Godbey of Greencastle, Pa., reflected on her favorites at the tasting.

She still hadn’t picked up the Tomato Tasting “Key” sheet yet and only knew her favorite by the letter “D.”

According to the key, “D” was a Pink Boar and looks like a port wine-colored Green Zebra, and has an outrageous flavor that is sweet, rich and juicy.

“I love tomatoes during the tomato season,” she said. “I don’t eat them any other time of the year,” said Godbey, who is also a master gardener.

She wanted to participate in the tasting to let the public know there is a wide range of tomatoes.

There are more kinds of tomatoes “not just the watery, salad tomatoes they give at the grocery store and chain restaurants,” she said.

Melissa Thomas, her husband, Art, and son, Koen, 4, traveled to the event from Dillsburg, Pa.

While Koen munched on crackers, his parents savored the tasty, tomato tidbits.

“He isn’t so much a lover of tomatoes when it comes to eating them,” said Melissa Thomas. “He likes to pick them in the garden.”

The family, which sells their produce at a roadside stand, the Dillsburg Farmers Market and at a few local restaurants, hoped to find some new varieties of tomatoes to grow next year.

For John Kitting of Chambersburg it was love that lured him to the tomato tasting.

“I just like tomatoes,” said Kitting, who came to the event with his wife, Susan.

His love of tomatoes goes way back.

“My dad grew them. We used to take a salt shaker and sit in the garden and pull them off the vine and eat them,” he said. “I’ve loved tomatoes ever since I was 5 or 6 years old.”

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