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You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to

Tomatoes will tantalize the tastebuds at the fifth annual Tomato Taste Off this Saturday. - File photo
Tomatoes will tantalize the tastebuds at the fifth annual Tomato Taste Off this Saturday.
— image credit: File photo

Fifth annual Tomato Taste Off ripe for entertaining this Saturday.

POULSBO — The Poulsbo Farmers Market is calling on its fifth annual Tomato Taste Off competition. Amateur and professional growers alike are invited to submit in the categories of cooking and canning, cherry and pear, and slicing and salad this Saturday.

Market manager Jackie Aitchison said when it comes to the contest, taste reigns above all else.

“Most years it’s one of our local home gardeners that wins the prize,” she said. Despite the season’s shortened summer weather, “we have had tomatoes at the market now for a couple of weeks. ... I would think that our home growers probably have tomatoes ready, too.”

Entrants don’t need to RSVP, they can simply bring their submissions to the market Saturday at 9 a.m. There is no fee to enter and no number limit to entries.

“I’m hopeful with more and more people starting to grow their own food that maybe we’ll have more entries than we’ve had in previous years,” Aitchison said. “A lot more people are stopping at the master gardener booth at the market and asking for help and suggestions and advice about their home gardens.”

This year’s judges include Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade, horticulturist (and Kitsap News Group columnist) Peg Tillery, environmental reporter Chris Dunagan, Valley Nursery owner Brad Watts and — representing the youth demographic for the first time — Central Kitsap High student Shalene Mitchell.

“I’m very excited that we’re going to have a youth judge this year,” said Aitchison. “(Mitchell) has loved tomatoes since she was little.”

Tomatoes will be judged on overall appearance, color and taste. Prizes will be awarded for each category at noon; one fruit will be chosen as “best of show.”

Hand Sown Homegrown market vendor Jared Hankins said he plans to enter some of his plants in the contest, though he hasn’t yet decided which. Growing tomatoes this season was a trickier task than usual, thanks in part to cool weather lingering into summer.

“In order for us to offer a really healthy, established plant, we have to start them early inside in some type of greenhouse that has supplemental heat,” Hankins said. “This year the weather has caused us to use more propane than ever before.”

Hankins and his wife Sara managed to pull in 200 pounds a week on average for three weeks this season; the last two weeks he reported a crop of about 150 pounds. He said the tough part in Saturday’s contest will be handing in tomatoes that not only taste impressive, but don’t have any physical flaws.

“I believe that the taste of the tomatoes comes from the variety. If it’s an open pollinated heirloom seed or if it’s some type of hybrid, there’s definitely going to be a taste difference,” he said. “Heirloom varieties are going to have an upper hand because those are seeds that have been kept around on purpose for years.”

An heirloom tomato is grown from seeds bred before 1940.

“I can almost guarantee you that an heirloom tomato’s going to win the taste off,” he jovially added.

To download an entry form, view contest requirements and prove Hankins right (or wrong), visit www.poulsbofarmersmarket.org.

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