by Nancy Stiles
After a five-year absence, NatureSweet Tomatoes is bringing the Homegrown Tomato Challenge back to our fair city for its 50th event nationwide. Local gardeners' and farmers' wares will be tasted and rated by judges like Ligaya Figueras over at Sauce magazine. There's also a new event this year: the chef's challenge!
"We have such a great response from the local community, from gardeners and cooking enthusiasts to chefs supporting it," NatureSweet's Tracy Reeder tells Gut Check. Three chefs, Mary Alice Reinhardt, Gina Bangser and Caleb Hirsch will be cooking live with ingredients and utensils provided by the competition and have to come up with a recipe -- all they know is they will be using NatureSweet cherry tomatoes. The winner will get a $2,500 grand prize and the other two win $250 in gift cards.
Entrants in the homegrown challenge will be competing in the large and small tomato categories, with a $2,500 grand prize in each. Six runners-up will get $250 in gift cards as well. Members of the community can come and learn techniques for growing and cooking tomatoes from both master gardeners and chefs. Plus, all tomato entries will be donated to the St. Louis Food Bank. The challenge begins Saturday, August 24 at 9 a.m. at the Missouri Botanical Garden (4344 Shaw Boulevard; 314-577-9400).