Feast Your Eyes on the 32nd Annual Massachusetts Tomato Contest
The score sheet for the Massachusetts Tomato Contest is pretty intense.
Completely absent of cartoon-y tomato clip art, the spreadsheet straightforwardly lays out the contest criteria. Tomatoes are judged on four attributes: flavor, firmness/slicing quality, exterior color, and shape. Flavor is the most important factor—it accounts for 10 points. “The perfect tomato should have a strong tomato taste, be slightly acidic, juicy, and fresh tasting with a tender skin,” reads the form. The rest of the categories are rated on a scale of five points, making the highest possible score 25 points.
How does one judge a tomato’s firmness and slicing quality?
A desirable tomato should have a dense uniform thick wall with many seed cavities, completely filled with a jelly-like mass. The firmness of the tomato should be pleasing, not too mushy and not too hard. It should be such that it will bruise if dropped, yet is not over-ripe or soft.
A group of 20 chefs, food writers, produce experts, and state officials made up the judging panel at Wednesday’s 32nd annual Massachusetts Tomato Contest. They used the score sheet to examine 88 entires from 16 commercial farms around the state, awarding tomato-topped trophies in four categories: heirloom tomatoes, field tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and the heaviest tomatoes.
“We have great tasting tomatoes in this state, so this is a way to call attention to one of our premium crops,” explained Jeff Cole, executive director of Mass Farmers’ Markets.
The friendly fruit competition was hosted by the Boston Public Market Association and the Trustees of Reservations, with sponsorship and cooperation from Mass Farmers’ Markets, the New England Vegetable and Berry Grower’s Association, and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. First-place winners included Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon, Langwater Farm in North Easton, MacArthur Farm in Holliston, and Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell.
Tomato-filled plates lined several long tables at the event, with a little bowl of soda crackers at each tables’ end—to cleanse the palate, of course. Get a taste of today’s lycopene-packed action below.