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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

Besides the 58 plates of naked tomatoes, many dishes of tomato-friendly foods, prepared by the gardeners, ringed the pavilion.

For instance, Cecilia Strakna, one of the organizers, cooked six pounds of bacon – four pounds of pork bacon and two pounds of turkey bacon – for fans of the BLT. “I think my nephew ate most of the real bacon,” she reported later.

Each year presents tomato-growing challenges, and this season’s pattern of a wet spring, a dry July and thunderstorms in August, played havoc with the crop, the gardeners said.

Overall, the 2009 crop seems to me to lack the acidity, the edge if you will, of prior years. This is what tomato-growers do: We muse about the fine points, or lack thereof, in the “vintage.”

“Honestly, the only tomato that I thought really had that nice tang was Morx, the brown cherry that won first place,” Strakna replied to me via an e-mail, when I mentioned that this was a bland year. “Most of the people that I’ve talked to say that they think the wet spring was to blame, but I’m not sure how that would affect the taste. But you never know how a variety is going to perform from year to year. The first season I grew Black Cherry, it was awful, but it was delicious the next year,” she said.

Oh, the vicissitudes of growing tomatoes. A main worry now is keeping pace with the harvest, the heavy load of produce pumped out by our plants.

After endless servings of sliced tomatoes, after making quarts of tomato sauce and after several sessions making oven-dried cherry tomatoes – slice tomatoes in half, drizzle them with salted olive oil and cook for three hours in a 200-degrees oven – I was still on the lookout for another tomato dish.

Cheryll Green gave me one, a tomato pie. She and her husband, Hank, drove an hour and half to the Baltimore county tasting from their home in Winchester, Va. The Greens brought some Cherokee Purple, Brandywine tomatoes and a tomato pie. The pie recipe she used called for Hanover Tomatoes, a type that some Virginians, especially those who reside in Hanover County, regard as the ultimate tomato.

Green, who lives in Frederick County, Va., substituted some Cherokees.

Next Page: Recipe for Tomato Pie>>