The UCCE Master Gardeners had their eighth annual Tomato Extravaganza Sept. 6 at the Garden of the Seven Sisters in San Luis Obispo. Twelve varieties of tomatoes and 15 varieties of basil were available for sampling. Tasters moved about the crowded room tasting and voting for their favorites and cleansing their palates with crackers and fresh basil lemonade.
Chocolate Stripes garnered the most votes for best-tasting tomato and Hungarian Heart was a close second. The third favorite tomato was Cherokee. For the basil, the lemon variety was the winner by far. There was a tie for second between Thai Siam Queen and Sweet Green.
The plant sale included the varieties of basil featured in the tasting room and apple trees from the California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG). Workshops on gophers and ground squirrels, winter vegetable gardens and rain barrels were held throughout the day under the pavilion in the garden.
Informational booths and displays featured CRFG, UCCE Master Food Preservers, UC publications, gardening in formation, a tomato head station, and the personal insect collection of one of our very own Master Gardeners. This display of insects included pinned and preserved specimens and two monarch chrysalises. A handful of lucky onlookers actually got to see the monarch emerge from the chrysalis! Nature’s perfect timing!
By the end of the event, the last case of heirloom tomatoes was sold, the last basil plant went to a happy gardener, and our beautiful Monarch butter fly fluttered away to a flower in our garden. We hope to see you next year at our ninth annual Tomato Extravaganza!