Soon we will have harvested, canned, dried, pickled, and frozen tons of tomatoes and tomato products. We have discussed, quite excessively, yields, varieties, and growth rates with anyone foolish enough to ask about our garden. And, we have probably enjoyed more than one of the summer favorites: a BLT or a tomato sandwich.

What is it about the tomato that makes gardeners so passionate about them? After all, they were once thought to be poisonous, as they are members of the nightshade family. Historically though, they had been referred to as “love apples.” That name may be a clue to why we gardeners are in love with many of the 7,500 varieties of the tomato. They’re an addiction that causes severe withdrawal during the months of November through July.

Eating a store-bought tomato during those months is equivalent to chewing a piece of newspaper. But come July, we are totally euphoric when the first tomato starts to ripen. And then who cares if the neighbors question our sanity when we stand in the garden, with or without a salt shaker, and chow down on a warm juicy tomato.

Tomato lovers, mark your calendar for Saturday, August 18. The Berkeley-Jefferson County Extension Master Gardeners are hosting the 7th-Aannual Tomato Fest, from 10am-2pm, at the Kearneysville Tree Fruit and Education Center (7 Apple Harvest Lane, Kearneysville—off of Route 9).

At the Fest, visitors will get the chance to sample varieties they know and love, plus ones they may have seen only in a catalogue. Voting for the best tomatoes is also part of the event. A bonus: you can take home seeds from any of the varieties you particularly like and may try to grow next season. To register one of your tomatoes for judging, please call the Berkeley County Extension office at 304-264-1936.

The Fest will feature local tomato guru, Randy Sine. His presentation will be followed by a cooking demonstration with Chef Miriam from Blue Ridge Community and Technical College. And, attendees get to sample what she prepares. The tomato doctors, Eldon Winston and Louise Finch, will also be present, so bring your questions.

The event will also feature a variety of children’s activities, tours of the property, tomato foods and tomatoes for sale, Angie Faulkner-designed t-shirts for sale, and a free bag of freshly popped popcorn.

And a final fun note: Is the tomato a fruit or vegetable? A tomato is biologically a fruit, but in culinary terms, a vegetable. So said the U.S. Supreme Court on May 10, 1893, when it declared that the tomato is a vegetable. The decision was based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use—that is: vegetables are generally served with a meal and not for dessert. As a note, this ruling only applied to tariffs, but isn’t it nice to know that the highest Court recognized the value of a tomato? As the theme of the Nashville Tomato Arts Festival states: “The tomato: a uniter, not a divider—bringing together fruits and vegetables.” Which pretty much sums up its lure.


— ARTICLE BY: Melanie Files

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