Sunday tomato festival will include free samples

Sunday, August 12, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:48 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Festival goers brought everything from tomato salads to fried green tomatoes at the Big Canoe Tomato Festival, Sunday, August 12, 2007.

Columbia - The tomatoes are rolling in, and some of this summer’s crop will come under the blade this evening at Tomato Fest.

The free event is organized by Big Canoe, a Columbia-based group interested in educating the community about sustainability and urban agriculture.

If you go

WHEN AND WHERE: Tomato Fest will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at Big Canoe’s garden, 406 Sanford Ave, between Ash and Worley streets. WHO TO CALL: For more information about the event, call Jenny Czyzewski at 875-8590. ONLINE: For more information about Big Canoe, go to

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Members of Big Canoe will be slicing, dicing and serving up at least 15 varieties of heirloom tomatoes to sample, organizer Jenny Czyzewski said. Visitors will be able to taste before voting for their favorite variety; local pineapple green tomatoes have already won Czyzewski’s vote. Other candidates will include lemon boy, persimmon, red fig and black plum.

The fruits — red, yellow, orange and green — will come from local growers as well as Big Canoe’s own garden. Some of tomorrow’s feast will come from Tony Speichinger, who’s backyard tomato garden has been in operation for nearly 40 years.

“When I bought this house in 1968, there were gardens in every backyard around here,” said Speichinger, who sells tomatoes from his Jewell Avenue home.

Nearly everyone who grows tomatoes has more than enough this time of year, Czyzewski said.

“We wanted to do something to celebrate summer bounty and the idea of gardening,” she said.

Aside from the exalted tomatoes, the festival will feature live music by The Mere Mortals, cooking demonstrations, an auction of work by local artists and artisans, a by-donation dinner, games and tours of the half-acre garden.

Members of Big Canoe began their central city sustainable garden in 2006 with an educational focus. Participants share gardening duties as well as the fruits of harvest. The public is welcome to help out at their summer gardening days from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays.

Big Canoe members anticipate that Tomato Fest will raise money for educational programs and “get people out and involved in the community,” Czyzewski said.

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