KINGSPORT—Tomato Fest XII, sponsored by the Southern Appalachian Plant Society, was held on Saturday, August 13 at the Kingsport Farmer’s Market.

Tomato lovers of all ages attend this annual event on the second Saturday in August to revel in “all things tomato”. Local growers submit entries in the best tasting contests and also in the exceptional tomato contests including biggest, prettiest, ugliest and most bizarre. A panel of judges deem the winners in the best tasting varieties, but all of the tomatoes are added to the tasting table where festival attendees can sample one or all. The purpose of the tasting table is to expose people to different varieties and to encourage them to grow something new in their backyard next season. People also get to munch on tomato sandwiches and have a vote in the salsa contest which had a record number of entries this year. Chef Joe McCray of Food City was on hand to prepare and share three of his favorite tomato recipes including Hot Tomato Grits, Tomato Feta Salad and Bruschetta.

Hawkins County growers were well represented this year. Past entrants Jim LaFollette, Luther Kite, whose entries were submitted in memory of his son, Luther Kite, Jr., and the Church Hill Senior Center Garden were joined by the first time participants of the Hawkins County Master Gardener group and Josh Mallam of Kite farms. Ribbons were won by the Hawkins County crew in the biggest, prettiest and most bizarre categories. Of the 15 best tasting ribbons awarded, the Hawkins County growers took home 12 of them – including first place awards for the tomato varieties Wood’s German Pink, Israeli, Pineapple and Cherokee Purple. Other winning Hawkins County tomatoes included Mountain Merit, Champion Bush, Defiant, Rainbow, Moonglow Orange, Mr. Stripey and Old Timer. If you don’t recognize the names of these tomatoes and you would like to sample them, mark your August 2017 calendars and head up to Tomato Fest.

The Southern Appalachian Plant Society (SAPS) is a group dedicated to providing current and factual gardening information to all categories of gardeners. Through events like Tomato Fest and a series of monthly lectures by gardening educators and experts, SAPS promotes sound horticultural practices in our community.

For more information and for a full list of Tomato Fest XII winners, visit their website at www.saps.us.