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If you asked veggie gardeners in Adelaide what is their most rewarding crop to grow, I think the answer would be overwhelmingly tomatoes. While the major supermarkets continue to sell bright red tomatoes that look appetising, many of us feel that the artificial ripening process used causes the tomatoes to lose their flavour and taste more acidic.
For the last couple of years I have grown my own tomatoes, like many of my friends and neighbours in Adelaide. The quantity I produce is quite variable, depending on the weather and what pests are predominant at the time, but the flavour of a freshly picked fully ripe tomato is something to savour. Especially when it's free!
Finely chopped tomato with basil from the garden tastes just terrific on toast, livened with a bit of garlic. Or try a nice cool home grown tomato salad with some zingy rocket leaves instead of lettuce for a refreshing taste in summer.
Enough! I'm starting to drool before even mentioning the Botanic Gardens' free Tomato Festival which returns on Sunday February 23 after a very successful start last year. While the festival is only being held on one day in 2014, the number of activities has been increased and offer something for the whole family.
Bring in your own home grown tomatoes and enter a competition for the biggest or best tasting. Tour the Tomato Trail in search of free seeds, and take a taste test of heirloom tomatoes at the Diggers Club to decide which variety you like best.
As a family festival there are plenty of things to do for kids throughout the afternoon on Plane Tree Lawn, including games and a Cherry Tomato and Spoon Race, so the children won't be bored if you bring them along. You can visit the Bicentennial Conservatory free now too, and kids love exploring its misty interior.
Apart from the fun activities, there will be some really useful sessions on how to grow tomatoes well, including tips on companion planting, how to save seeds, learn to make compost, and how to grow vegetables with limited space. The Schomburgk Pavilion will also be housing cooking demonstrations during the day, when three prominent chefs will share their secrets celebrating the tomato.
For the dedicated and traditional tomato lovers, take the free Tomato Sauce Challenge - enter your own home made tomato sauce from now until February 14, 2014. It's a chance to demonstrate your cooking skills as well as your green thumb, and competition last year was steep with 131 entries. One tip though - avoid adding too many flavours or spices, as it's all about the flavour of the tomato.
For anyone interested in fine foods or green gardening the Tomato Festival at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens is a must-do event. Not only will it be fabulous fun, but you will learn how to truly make the most of your tasty tomatoes.
I went to the Tomato Festival this year. The workshops were fascinating. It is well worth going to see and taste the huge array of tomato varieties and to learn good growing techniques from the interesting presenters.