It was exciting to have many new faces as well as some more familiar friends visit our farm on September 7 for our Open Farm Day and Tomato/Garlic Tasting Event. We offered the event mainly to get people to visit the farm and so we could talk about our farming practices and show some of the abundances and challenges that are visible on a September tour. An additional goal was to share the diversity and beauty of vegetable varieties that exist out there. While some visitors were tomato and garlic aficionados looking to try more varieties, others were blown away by the fact that tomatoes come in other colors beside red and that garlic comes in more than one variety. In reality our small taste testing represents the microscopic filament on the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes and garlics out there.
The fun of growing a rainbow of different varieties of crops such as tomatoes, winter squash, peppers and beans is part of what inspires us to farm. Of course a variety’s flavor is just as important as how cool it looks. A taste test offers the chance to compare the flavor of vegetables side by side unhindered by the pressures of having to make choices based on price, size and appearance. Allowing visitors to rate our veggies based on flavor adds an interesting perspective to our variety choices for future years. On a daily basis we are evaluating our favorite varieties as we pick, sell and eat them. Factors such as yield, marketable size, uniformity and lack of cracks and disease, and the appearance that most customers desire all effect our choices. The funny thing is that when tasted side by side, most of those marketing factors don’t match up with the favorites from the taste test results. For instance, the top voted tomatoes are orange and green (green when ripe). We had been really excited about a new tomato this year called Gypsy because of its productivity of uniform medium sized blemish free fruits, but it came in last in the taste test. That being said, the sample size of data was pretty small, with the average number of votes for each variety being around 12. You can find last year’s taste test results here. Some of the same varieties were tasted last year but many are different and the results are quite variable. I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves, here are the results of the taste test for tomatoes.
Tomatoes were ranked based on both taste and sweetness. Here are the rankings from highest to lowest based on the averaged taste and sweetness scores: (I’ve included links so you can click the variety name to see a picture and seed source, though many of these tomatoes were grown from seeds we saved ourselves last year)
3. Solar Flair
5. Pork Chop
9. Super Lakota
10. Paul Robeson
11. Amish Paste
12. Purple Russian
The garlic was chopped and served in olive oil on crackers. Being such a strong flavor when eaten raw, differentiating between the varieties of garlic poses a challenge. Garlic varieties were evaluated for flavor and spiciness. Despite similarities some distinct favorites did emerge, and the results were quite different from last year.
Garlic taste test results from highest to lowest scores based on the averages of flavor and spice:
1. Romanian Red (by a landslide)
2. German Extra Hardy
3. Elmer’s Topset
5. German Porcelain (it should be noted that the low score for this variety indicates that it is the mildest and that may be desirable for some people)
The standout preference for Romanian Red was a surprise for us. We have grown it for two years now and don’t have any to sell as we are building our seed stock, but will be sure to continue to expand our plantings after seeing these results.
Thanks to all who came out and participated in this event!