After the judging wrapped, I talked with home growers Linda Thomas, who won the large tomato category with her big boy variety, and Louise Yannutz, whose sun gold took first in small tomatoes.
They talked about home gardens, varieties, and best growing practices. I don’t have a home garden beyond the few scraggly potted herbs on our balcony, so I asked for advice about eating tomatoes.
Let them ripen on the vine,” Thomas told me. “Just enjoy the wonderful taste and quality of the tomato. Get creative and make new recipes or just plain with salt.”
Grow lots of basil to go with the tomatoes,” said Yannutz, who makes salsa, marinara sauce, ketchup, chutney and green tomato pickles with her tomatoes.
Thompson, the ex-Bronco, chipped in his own tidbit: “My favorite way was and still is just off the vine!”
For me, this moment epitomized the value of NatureSweet’s community event: connecting grower-shippers, home growers and cooks with each other and with regular consumers who may not know much about tomatoes. Like me.
Trying tomato-centric dishes and hearing so many people — including local celebrities — talk about how they love tomatoes fresh off the vine made an impact. What had I been missing out on during all these years of virulent tomato resistance, picking tomatoes out of my food?
The event also showcased how produce can be a family and community affair. Parents and children alike sampled NatureSweet’s recipes and watched the judging. And Thomas and Yannutz talked to me about gardening with their children and grandchildren, even as they greeted fellow growers and friends.
Events like NatureSweet’s are a wonderful way to capitalize on existing community bonds to increase awareness about choosing and eating produce, what’s happening on the local level, and how that can complement traditional retail offerings.
I hope to see more of these events in my area.
Until then, good thing one of my pots contains plenty of basil!