A Taste for Tomatoes

Annual festival draws more than 400

Hundreds of mid-Missourians sampled salsas, tasted and ranked more than 200 tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers and learned how to grow their favorite varieties at Bradford Research Center’s annual tomato festival Thursday evening.

Fred Vasey of Harrisburg, Mo. strolled through Bradford’s tomato and pepper patch, where Jim Quinn, regional horticultural specialist for MU Extension, answered questions and diagnosed problems. After a brief conversation, Quinn determined Vasey’s troubles with blight were likely caused by too little sunshine on his plot. “Tomatoes need a minimum of eight hours of sunshine in May, but perform best with about 14 hours,” Quinn said. “Plants are much more prone to foliar disease when they don’t get enough sunlight.”

The festival offered tomato and pepper dishes from a dozen area restaurants, including Campus Dining Services, workshops on the culture of chili peppers, how to handle the heat stress, basic tomato growing techniques and dealing with disease and insect pressures.

The annual event hosted more than 400 visitors this year and each year, Tim Reinbott, superintendent of the Center, finds new varieties of peppers, tomatoes and tomatillos to offer.