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Group Seeks Out Season's Tastiest Tomato Varieties

Group Seeks Out Season's Tastiest Tomato Varieties

Rob Kasper | The Baltimore Sun

It looked like a picnic. But it was actually a tomato tasting, a thorough one.

Fifty-eight different types of tomatoes – cherries, currants, heirlooms, hybrids – were sitting on picnic tables in a pavilion in Baltimore County’s Southwest Park.

It was the annual get-together of MAGTAG, or the Mid-Atlantic Gardeners’ Tomato Appreciation Gathering, a loose-knit group bound together by their fondness for the “love apple.” Most of the 42 folks attending found out about the event by word of mouth or by prowling around two online gardening communities, Gardenweb.com and Tomatoville.com.

I arrived at the park on a Saturday afternoon just as the field of favorites had been narrowed to two contenders, a white currant and a small brown cherry called Morx. Asked to issue a judgment, I ate both and picked the Morx. It had both the tang of a Cherokee and the sweetness of a currant.

It turned out that both contenders were grown by Greg Flynn, a software engineer who propagated something close to 750 tomato seedlings in his Damascus garden.

I grow a few tomatoes. This year I have about 25 plants, but I had never heard of Morx.

That’s because Flynn made up the name. “It is short for mutant or cross. I wasn’t exactly sure which it was,” said Flynn. Eventually, Flynn determined that the Morx is a cross between a green Cherokee tomato and a white currant.

Other top finishers were the Matt’s Wild Cherry, the Persimmon, and the Black Cherry grown by Anne Bertinuson of Monrovia, in Frederick County. The Absint, Chang Li and Guernsey’s Pink Blush grown by Trudi Davidoff , who traveled to the gathering from East Meadow, N.Y., also ranked as among the top 10 tastiest tomatoes.

The proceedings had folksy flavor. Tasters registered their approval by dropping pennies in plastic cups placed behind each plate of tomatoes. Three pennies was the equivalent of three stars, two pennies meant very good, one penny signified good and no penny meant it was a “spitter,” aka bad or flavorless. When the voting ended, the tomatoes with the most cents won.

The winners got “medals,” glittery paper creations that had been crafted by Flynn’s five children, who range in age from 1 to 9, and their playmates. Winners strutted down the pavilion, ignoring the biting flies, flaunting their “medals.” When Flynn was presented his first-place award, he carried a daughter in one arm and a bouquet of basil leaves in the other as the assemblage sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”