Sun Sugar hybrid wins top honor at Tomato Festival

Thursday, September 27, 2007 | 1:44 p.m. CDT; updated 4:45 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

COLUMBIA — This year’s most wanted was a fresh face on the scene. The Sun Sugar hybrid tomato won the taste-testing vote at this year’s Tomato Festival. The event on Sept. 6 drew more than 400 tomato fans and was organized by MU’s Bradford Research and Extension Center.

The unassuming orange cherry tomato’s debut took samplers by surprise.

“Everybody that tasted it was like, ‘oooh, that’s really good,’” said Leslie Shaw, a horticulturist at Bradford.

The victory is evidence that tomato fans are branching out from the traditional red-skinned variety.

“A lot of people think that the yellow ones are less acidic. If you’re sensitive to acid flavor, they’re a milder, sweeter flavor,” Shaw said.

“I’ve heard the purple tomatoes have the most intense tomatoey flavor,” Shaw said.

Missouri Pink Love Apple, a heirloom, captured second place, beating out last year’s winner, the Beefsteak heirloom.

Tomatoes weren’t the only subjects under scrutiny this year. Many brave visitors sampled some of the 32 pepper varieties.

“I know I saw some people fanning their mouths,” Shaw said.

“I felt like the event was a really big success,” Shaw said. She credited a good deal of the success to the help of volunteer master gardeners, as well as the back-up supplies by the pepper-tasting station.

“The milk came in handy,” Shaw said.

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