Edibles

Tasty tomatoes take over the table, and tomato lovers scoop them onto their plates. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Tasty tomatoes take over the table, and tomato lovers scoop them onto their plates. Photos by Ralph Stewart

Tantalizing tomatoes

By Eleni Collins - September 7, 2006

The fourth annual Tomato Tasting held on Saturday at the Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury had a twist this year. The tasters were in charge of voting for their favorite tomato out of more than 15 different types.

From the large Big Rainbow tomatoes to the small, orange-colored Peach tomatoes, tasters lined up from 2 to 4 pm, filling their plates with sliced tomatoes and marmalade. Using one blue, red, and white ticket each, people voted by placing the first, second, and third place tickets next to their tomato of choice.

Held in the Far Barn, the winds and clouds did not stop people from coming to the event. The line was continuous for the full two hours, and the barn was crowded with people sitting to enjoy the smorgasbord of tomatoes.

Mary Wolverton spoons a sample while Carol Shilakes reads the tally cup to figure out the type of tomato. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Mary Wolverton (left) spoons a sample while Carol Shilakes reads the tally cup to figure out the type of tomato.

The Russian Black Plum tomato had the most unique coloring of the bunch. With a dark, almost black outside, once cut down the middle the color faded from black into a light red towards the center. It was not a sweet tomato, like the Italian heirloom, but one that tasted healthy and refreshing.

At the microphone was Melinda Rabbitt DeFeo, vice president of Slow Food Martha's Vineyard, who provided commentary and answered questions throughout the afternoon. Questions such as "How do you know when a green tomato is ripe," and "why do tomatoes crack?" arose from people waiting in line. Ms. DeFeo responded that one could tell by touch when green tomatoes are ripe, and tomatoes crack when there is heavy water fluctuation. "You should get in a routine so you water evenly all the time," she answered. This year was a troublesome year specifically for watering because of the heavy amounts of rain, she added, but she also thanked the rain for providing farmers with so many tomatoes to feed the anxious tasters.

This year was the first year Slow Food Martha's Vineyard was a part of the tasting, and the group provided homemade tomato dishes for people to try. Despite the gloomy weather, Ms. DeFeo said she felt there was an overwhelming response to the homegrown event, which is becoming a tradition among the Island's many tomato lovers.