(June 26, 2:58 p.m.) Tomato lovers will have a chance to sample some of the best-tasting tomato varieties late this summer at the 17th annual NatureSweet Carmel TomatoFest in Carmel, Calif., said Gary Ibsen, founder and director.

More than 350 varieties of organic heirloom tomatoes, including those most preferred by chefs and retailers, will be on display and available for tasting at the event, which is set for Sept. 14 at Quail Lodge Resort.

Last year, visitors came from 37 states and five countries to attend the show that Ibsen described as “one of the best food and wine events in California.”

The TomatoFest attracts commercial growers of conventional, hydroponic and greenhouse tomatoes, as well as foodies and home gardeners, he said. The event gives visitors a chance to evaluate and compare qualities of various tomato varieties and gives growers an opportunity to select which varieties they will plant.

While at the show, guests will be able to enjoy cuisine prepared by 60 of the best chefs in the U.S., he said.

“They put together their culinary creations based on tomatoes,” Ibsen said.

Guests will be able to taste more than 200 premium wines from 50 wineries. An international olive oil tasting, a salsa showcase featuring 90 tomato salsas from around the U.S. and a country barbecue also are planned.

The NatureSweet Carmel TomatoFest was established to celebrate the spirit of the season’s harvest and to encourage gardeners to carry on the tradition of growing heirloom tomatoes, Ibsen said.

“Our intention is to attract not only tomato lovers from around the country, but also people in the business of growing, merchandising and retailing tomatoes so they get to know more about (tomatoes).”

Tickets are available for $95 up to the day of the event. Attendance is limited to 3,000 guests, and the festival sells out every year, Ibsen said.

Net proceeds from the festivities are donated to five regional and national charities that focus on youth and food education.

For information, visit www.tomatofest.com or call (800) 965-4827.