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Baltimore County MG Year of the Tomato Update

Guest post by Angie Goodman, describing yet another wonderful tomato tasting!

Baltimore County Master Gardeners
2016 Year of the Tomato

Let me set the stage for you: It is 8:59 am on the morning of the 2015 Baltimore County Master Gardener Plant Sale.  We have 3 members behind the Tomato tables in the back of the “Sun Barn”.  All is calm. 

The clock clicks over to 9am and the barn doors open.  People come rushing in, pulling Plant Chariots (wagons) and carrying boxes.  One of our Tomato sellers described it as a stampede coming toward them; they were sure they would be crushed.  The next few hours could only be compared to a crazy day on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.  I even lost my reading glasses early that day (not good since I was a “cashier”).  They were later found smashed into the dirt floor, an apparent victim of the stampede.
The tomatoes sold out early, and it was determined that there were not nearly enough.  Out of this realization was born the Tom Team, led by Baltimore County Master Gardener Lisa Airey; a team dedicated to improving the variety, quality, and number of tomatoes at the next plant sale and tomato tasting.  Over the next several months, we met, and we planned, and we asked Master Gardeners if they would grow for us.
Our expectation was that we would have approximately 800 plants for the sale, many of them heirlooms.  But our incredible group of Master Gardeners went above and beyond our wildest dreams.  We started the sale with over 2,000 tomato plants as we opened the doors at 9am for the sale! (Red tablecloths designate the tomato tables)
At 1:00, as things slowed down, we did a quick inventory and determined that we sold over 1,200 tomato plants in the first 4 hours.  We moved an amazing 300 plants per hour!!  At the end of the day we had a lot of plants left over, but many were distributed to Master Gardeners in the hopes that they would donate some of their fruit to our Tomato Tasting in August.
As we moved through the summer, the weather seemed to get more and more unsettled.  Cold, hot, wet, hot, wet, stormy and windy, hail, hot, wet.  The call went out to the Master Gardeners for donations for the August Tomato Tasting, as part of our annual Gardenfest event.  As one of the organizers of this event, I always worry that we will have only a few varieties on the tables, a concern supported this year by the many emails that I receive from Master Gardeners telling me how horrible their tomatoes are doing.  That doesn’t really matter though.  What matters is that people care enough to make an attempt.  In general, we never know what we will get, until the morning of the tasting.
Again, Master Gardeners came through with flying colors.  The day of our Gardenfest event, we had 50 varieties of tomatoes.  Some people donated several varieties, others just one or two tomatoes.  All were very much appreciated.  As many of the volunteers had helped with the tasting in prior years, they jumped in and self-organized, having the tasting set up and ready to go by 9am.
One gentleman informed us that he didn’t like tomatoes.  But, after tasting several of the varieties, a Master Gardener was helping him gather some of the seeds together from the tomato he liked the best, explaining to him how to save them for planting next year.  One little girl was tasting many varieties, while her mother shared with us that her daughter won’t eat tomatoes at home.  We suggested that possibly she wasn’t serving the kind (or colors) of tomatoes that her daughter liked.   It is always fun to chat with tasters as they taste varieties of tomatoes that might never taste otherwise.
As part of the tasting, we asked tasters to complete a short survey, mostly to vote for their favorite tomato.  87 surveys were collected.  9 of our tasters had never tasted an heirloom tomato prior to that day. 

Here some of the top rankings:
1st place: Sungold F1 – 19 votes
2nd place: Black Cherry – 13 votes
3rd place (tie): Black Krim — 9 votes
3rd place (tie): Hungarian Heart – 9 votes
Cherry Tomatoes:
1st place: Sungold F1 – 19 votes
2nd place: Black Cherry – 13 votes
3rd place: Indigo Rose – 3 votes
Paste/Plum Tomatoes:
1st place (tie): Purple Russian – 3 votes
1st place (tie): Striped Roma – 3 votes
2nd place (tie): Juliet F1  – 2 votes
2nd place (tie): Royal Chica Roma – 2 votes
Slicer/Salad/Beefsteak Tomatoes:
1st place (tie): Black Krim – 9 votes
1st place (tie): Hungarian Heart – 9 votes
2nd place: Pineapple – 7 votes
Heirloom/Open Pollinated:
1st place: Black Cherry – 13 votes
2nd place (tie): Black Krim – 9 votes
2nd place (tie): Hungarian Heart – 9 votes
1st place: Sungold F1 – 19 votes 
2nd place: Red Beefsteak (variety unknown) – 5 votes
3rd place: Earliana – 4 votes
–Angie Goodman (Baltimore County Master Gardener)

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