Red Hot Tomato Festival at Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden

This heirloom tomato variety, growing outside the historic Palm House at the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, is expected to be ripe, red and ready for the Tomato Festival.

This heirloom tomato variety, growing outside the historic Palm House at the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, is expected to be ripe, red and ready for the Tomato Festival.

If you grow your own tomatoes at home, why not enter them in the ‘Best in Show’ competition, and be part of the Tomato Festival Sydney fun at the Royal Botanic Garden on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 February.

“Even if you don’t grow your own tomatoes, this tomato fiesta will have something for everyone,” said Dr Brett Summerell, A/Executive Director Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust.

“There’ll be fun and entertainment for all — including kids’ activities, talks, walks, pop-up café and bar, wood-fired pizzas, pasta, live music and the Great Tomato Debate.

“Highlights include the Tomato Taste Test — free for everyone — with around 20 varieties of tomatoes to taste.  People can put their palates to the test. It’ll be interesting to discover how store-bought tomato varieties stack up against tough competition from the heirloom varieties.

“Some taste-test tomatoes have fabulous names: Wild Sweetie, Tommy Toe, Lemon Drop, Black Russian, Green Zebra and Legend. You might guess from the names that the colour range is wonderful too — green, yellow, black — and of course red!”

Dr Summerell explained that there is more to the Tomato Festival Sydney than meets the eye.

“The concept aligns really well with the objectives of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust: to encourage people to learn more about plant conservation and biodiversity and play a part themselves.  Growing your own tomatoes, believe it or not, is one way you can do that,” Dr Summerell said.

“The Tomato Festival Sydney will raise awareness about heirloom tomatoes. Heirloom varieties have not been bred or hybridised with mass production in mind. They develop naturally with pollination occuring through wind, insects and birds. Heirloom varieties tend to have superior flavour and are easy to grow — which is great for the home gardener.

“It’s important to preserve plant diversity. Because heirlooms are not hybridised, gardeners can collect their own seed from them each year, which allows you to control your own seed source. Once an heirloom variety is lost, it cannot be recreated and biodiversity decreases,” he said.

Dr Summerell said the Trust joined with the Diggers Club for this event — Diggers began rescuing heirloom tomato seeds about 25 years ago and introduced them to Australian gardeners in 1991.

“The Diggers Club are central to the heirloom story, it’s not just about tomatoes, it’s about all the other heirloom vegetables Australia has lost since the 1800s; nearly 25,000 heirloom varieties have been replaced with hybrids!  Hybrids are the type of tomato seeds and plants you’d buy from commercial suppliers – they produce big yields and are easier to transport but often have less flavour,” Dr Summerell said.

Written entries for the Best in Show competition close Thursday 30 January, then tomatoes must be delivered Sunday 2 February between 10am and 12 midday with winners announced that afternoon.

The Tomato Festival Sydney kicks off with a tomato-inspired Cocktail Party on Friday 31 January. For more information about the Tomato Festival Sydney visit:  www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au

22 January 2014


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