The red-hot heat has kept lots of tomatoes from setting this summer, which makes the tomato harvest late. Not a good combination when Tomato Day — always held the fourth Saturday of July — comes early.
"The fried green tomatoes will be a big hit," predicts extension agent Rebecca McMahon.
Samples of those will be part of the celebration in honor of our collective favorite vegetable (no, we're not calling it fruit) on July 23 at the Extension Center, 21st and Ridge Road. Tomato Day will be from 7 a.m. to noon, and admission is free.
There will also be salsa to taste, tomatoes to buy at the farmers market in the parking lot, and tomato critters for the children to make. Seminars will include making and canning salsa, cooking with tomatoes, growing a vertical vegetable garden, organic pest control and demystifying local food.
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No matter the state of your tomatoes, start scouting the crop for potential entries in the Tomato Day contests. If you don't have a perfect plate of three Jetstar tomatoes, perhaps you have a contestant for Ugliest Tomato.
If you're having problems with your tomato or other plants, you can take samples to Tomato Day to have them diagnosed. La Familia Senior Community Center will have a tomato brunch for sale, and there will also be garden magazine and iris sales.
If you have extra produce, you can take it to Tomato Day to donate to Plant a Row for the Hungry.
In the demonstration garden:
8 a.m., composting demonstration
8:30 a.m., tomato tour
9 a.m., growing a vertical garden
9:15 a.m., tour of the arboretum on the grounds
9:30 a.m., organic pest control for vegetable gardens by Melvin Epp
10 a.m., growing a variety of peppers
10:30 a.m., the family of four garden
11 a.m., grafting heirloom tomatoes by Cary Rivard of K-State
11:30 a.m., demystifying local food by Natalie Fullerton
In the Sunflower Room:
9 a.m., making and canning salsa
10:30 a.m., cooking with tomatoes, by Damian Lehman, executive chef at Wichita Country Club.
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.
Judges will look for uniformity of color and proper size and tomatoes of the same variety in plates of tomatoes.
Rules: One entry per person per category. Exhibitor must have grown the tomato. List variety, if known. Entries will be accepted from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. July 23.
For more information, go to the website http://sedgwick.ksu.edu or call 316-660-0100.