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Registration begins for annual Tomato Taste Off

POULSBO — Tomato connoisseurs are puckering up their taste buds with mouths a’watering as they prepare for the Fourth Annual Tomato Taste Off, which will be ripe and ready on Sept. 8 at the Poulsbo Farmers Market. Entry forms are now available for the tasting competition, where a new tomato pasta sauce contest will debut alongside the tried and true tomato testing. Both hobby and professional growers are encouraged to compete and vie for the grand prize.

“Anybody can enter,” said PFM board member Annie Eissler. “This is becoming Poulsbo Farmers Market’s signature event.”

The panel of judges, which includes Tizley’s Europub owner Rob DiFilippo, Central Market wine and beer department manager Al Moore, tomato savant and Adamen, Inc. owner Julie Adamen, amateur chef and North Kitsap-Poulsbo Rotary Club treasurer Brad Allen and tomato fan Terry Aitchison, will look for appearance, color and taste qualities in the fruits. Eissler said judges were chosen based on their knowledge and passion for tomatoes.

“It’s a mix of people that are more on the professional culinary side and people representing the community of tomato lovers,” she said.

The audience will be encouraged to participate in testing the tomatoes as well, and can see if their favorites match up with those of the judges’, Eissler said.

The event will be hosted by PFM board member and former tomato tasting judge John Nesby, owner of MorMor Bistro. The winner of the pasta sauce contest will receive a place for his or her recipe on the MorMor Bistro menu during the weekend of Sept. 14-16.

Nesby said there are several attributes he expects in a prize-winning tomato.

“I look for something that has uniform texture to it,” he said. “No scarring or soft spots.”

He said he also likes to see tomatoes with bright outer colors and a balanced inner content of seeds, gel and flesh. Unripe tomatoes will not do.

The contest’s three categories consist of: cherry/pear tomatoes, salad/slicing tomatoes and

canning/cooking tomatoes. In each category a first place prize will be awarded, as well as one overall grand prize. Winners will be announced at noon the day of the tasting and will be given bounty baskets featuring products from market vendors and event sponsors.

“It’s been really fun to see people take an interest in it,” Nesby said. Despite having worked in various areas of the country where tomato growing seasons are longer than those in the Northwest, he said the tomatoes here have not been lacking. “Here they’ve been the best quality that I’ve ever worked with in all my years of cooking.”

The event is sponsored by Kitchen Karousel, Marina Market and MorMor Bistro. Local growers interested in participating in the Tomato Taste Off should arrive between 9-10 a.m. Sept. 8 to submit their tomatoes along with a completed entry form available at www.poulsbofarmersmarket.org. There is no fee to enter the contest, no limit to the number of entries per person and no need to pre-register. Contestants in the tomato pasta sauce contest can send their recipes to info@poulsbofarmersmarket.org anytime before Sept. 1.

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