What started out as a gloomy day was brightened by the vibrant reds and oranges of the tomatoes and the bright smiles on people’s faces at the 14th annual Bradford Research Center Tomato Festival on Sept. 6.
Attendees were able to sample over 220 varieties of tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers, a significant increase from the original 25 varieties at the first tomato festival. After tasting the fruits, festival goers ranked them on a scale of one to five. A one rating was saved for the “fan favorites” and five ratings were given to plants that were less tasty. These scores are tabulated and stored at the Bradford Research Center to help gardeners decide which species of tomato to plant for the next year.
“I never realized how many different things could be going on here all at once at the research center,” said Maggie Jackson, a Columbia native. “It’s really cool how they can apply the data to help with things as simple as gardening.”
Andrew Biggs, the superintendent of Bradford Research Center, said the variety of plants and other activities made sure there was a little something for gardeners and foodies alike.
Along with the plant tastings, visitors had the opportunity to listen to expert tips on the best way to grow and prepare the fruit. Wagon tours of the Center provided a chance to learn about other research and events at Bradford.
At the children’s corner, youngsters could sample different varieties of Shatto Milk.
Biggs said that they tried to get as many flavors as they could.
“It’s always a lot of fun to see their reactions to milk,” Biggs said.