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Tomadah Paradah Attracts Hundreds

Mr. Stripy Variety Weighs in at 3-Plus Pounds

August 22, 2011

Pictured sampling some of the 116 varieties on display at the Tomadah Paradah are, from the left, Michele Stanton, Sue Ellen Campbell, Doreen Kelly and Jan Watkins.

Pictured sampling some of the 116 varieties on display at the Tomadah Paradah are, from the left, Michele Stanton, Sue Ellen Campbell, Doreen Kelly and Jan Watkins.

Black Prince, Lemon Bug, Linda, Marglobe, Charger, Cherokee Purple, Caspian Pink, Black Truffle and Box Car Willie constituted merely the tip of the iceberg of the 116 varieties of tomatoes displayed Saturday (Aug. 20) at the second annual Tomadah Paradah.

Several hundred tomato lovers attended the event held at the Wilmington College Farm, where they had an opportunity to taste, touch and marvel at all things tomato.

The event, which was co-sponsored by the College and Swindler & Sons Florists, featured tomatoes produced at local farms, as well as scores of varieties grown by Phil Swindler of Swindler’s and Monte Anderson and Randy Gerber of WC’s Agriculture Department.

Swindler gets a kick from the apparent obsession that many local persons (himself included) have with tomatoes.

“People are stupidly passionate about tomatoes,” he said. “It is the number one fruit for home production in Ohio and probably the country because it’s an easy fruit to grow.

“Anybody can grow it — whether they put it in a pot or the ground,” he added, noting he can recall numerous conversations at Swindler’s Garden Center each spring centered upon growing tomatoes.

A woman told him she grows her tomatoes in bales of straw. Several months later, she was rewarded for her ingenuity by the 1.6-pound tomato she proudly displayed at the Tomadah Paradah.

The subjectivity of taste also makes for some lively discussion among tomato aficionados.

In a competition judged Friday, Shawn Foxbower won both of the best-tasting tomato contests. His Early Girl variety won best traditional while his Sungold took the prize for best-tasting cherry tomato.

Swindler said the selection of the commonplace Early Girl, which in experts’ terms is simply an F1 hybrid whose seeds are among the most widely planted, is in contrast to last year’s champ, the regal heirloom tomato known as the Amana Orange.

“I believe that every year a different tomato will be judged as best-tasting because every year has unique weather conditions,” he said, noting that this year’s wet, cool spring and blowtorch hot July played havoc with a number of varieties.

Indeed, of the 130 varieties that Anderson, Gerber and Swindler grew this summer, a number of them were not ripe enough to participate in the parade of tomatoes. Several varieties rallied during the final days before the event in order to be presentable for display and tasting.

In addition to Foxbower’s winners for best-tasting, Mike Hacker and Greta Gray won the top prize for best salsa with a recipe by Scott and Alley Unzen. The heaviest tomato award went to Adam Popson for his 3-plus-pound Mr. Stripy variety.