Last year, the tomato that weighed the most at Tomato Day wouldn’t even have placed in previous years, extension agent Rebecca McMahon says.
“Not to diminish what they did last year,” she says. “In a normal year they would have grown something much bigger.”
But it reminds us of how desolate the tomato crop was in the heat wave.
This year’s lead-up to the tomato fest, which will be July 28 at the Extension Center, has started looking like last year, but the crop should be better, McMahon said.
“I think people have tomatoes set. It didn’t get hot as early this year, and people planted early, so a lot more fruit set this year than last year.”
But we can expect a temporary dearth of tomatoes sometime in August, in reaction to the stretches of hot weather when tomatoes didn’t set, McMahon says.
If you have tomatoes on your vines, be looking for entries for Tomato Day’s contests, which range from biggest to best plate of three to best heirloom specimen to ugliest. Cooks can enter salsa recipes.
And if you don’t have tomatoes, there will be plenty of them to buy at the farmers market in the parking lot. Hours for Tomato Day, which is free, will be from 7 a.m. to noon.
Other features: seminars, plant-problem diagnosis, fried-green tomatoes and salsa tasting, tomato-critter activity for children, garden magazine sale, iris sale by the Wichita Iris Society, tomato brunch by La Familia Senior Community Center.
If you bring at least 1 pound of produce to the Plant a Row for the Hungry tent, for donation to the needy, you’ll be entered in a drawing for a door prize.
• In the Demonstration Garden: 8 a.m., composting demonstration; 8:30 a.m., demonstration-garden tour; 9:15 a.m., shade-tree tour on the grounds (meet in the Meadowlark Room); 9:15 a.m., grilling pizza; 10:30 a.m., raised-bed gardening; 11 a.m., beyond tomatoes – gardening in the fall; 11:30 a.m., eating seasonally in Kansas, by Natalie Fullerton of the Our Local Food program.
• In the Sunflower Room: 8:30 a.m., canning Q&A; 9 a.m., preserving tomatoes beyond canning; 10:30 a.m., cooking with tomatoes, by Damian Lehman, executive chef of the Wichita Country Club.
Largest tomato, ugliest tomato, best plate of three standard tomatoes, best plate of three Roma or plum tomatoes, best plate of six cherry or pear tomatoes, best cluster of grape tomatoes, best heirloom tomato specimen, best fresh salsa, best preserved salsa.
For contest rules, go to the website www.sedgwick.ksu.edu or call the Extension office at 316-660-0100.