I love food festivals. In years past, I have dragged my kids to the Chatsworth Cranberry Festival (so-so) and the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival (an absolute scream). But if you want to attend the best tomato festival, you’ve got to act soon.
Rutgers University maintains a research farm in Hunterdon County, and every year it hosts what it calls the “Great Tomato Tasting.” And it is. Last year, according to my scribbled, tomato-juice-stained notes, I sampled 50 different tomatoes and a few hot peppers. Rutgers uses the consumer research gathered at the tasting to guide growers in what they should be planting.
The cost to attend is a modest $5, and children under 10 are free. The focus is almost entirely on tomatoes, though last year, I got to see an amazing field of edamame and the inspiration for my backyard bean teepee, and the kids got a hayride. This year, Rutgers says it will have new varieties of apples and peaches for taste testing as well. The farm is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so CSA members in NYC are going to have to Zipcar it out there. And note: No tomatoes are sold at the festival. This may seem perverse given the acres of tomato plants you will see, but Rutgers wants to drive consumers to farmers, not undercut them.
Where does all that bounty go? Rutgers’ donates what it grows to food pantries. And this year, it is asking visitors to bring canned or boxed non-perishable food items to support the Rutgers Against Hunger (RAH) program, http://rah.rutgers.edu/. (Bravo alma mater!)
Here are the details. The important thing is that you’ve got to register online, or call the coordinator ahead of time so they can count you in. This is an all-volunteer event, so registration makes the planning easier.
Where: Snyder Research and Extension Farm, 140 Locust Grove Road, Pittstown, Hunterdon County, NJ
When: Wednesday – August 26, 2009 3pm – dusk (RAIN OR SHINE)
Register: Online at https://njaes.rutgers.edu/rsvp/tomato or call 908-713-8980.