More than 150 readers attended the 12th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday's headquarters in Melville on Aug. 30.

Anthony Maltese

Credit: Johnny Milano

Anthony Maltese, 86, of North Massapequa, holds his winning 3 pound, 8.5 ounce tomato during the 12th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville on Aug. 30.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Anthony Maltese weighs his tomato.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Anthony Maltese weighs his tomato.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Anthony Maltese weighs his tomato.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Anthony Maltese is named the winner of the Great Long Island Tomato Challenge.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Anthony Maltese receives his award from Newsday's Jessica Damiano.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Anthony Maltese is awarded his prize.

Peter Notarnicola

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Peter Notarnicola weighs his tomato.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Peter Notarnicola weighs his tomato.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Peter Notarnicola weighs his tomato.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Peter Notarnicola weighs his tomato.

Joe Solarino

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Garden columnist Jessica Damiano shows the crowd Joe Solarino's tomato.

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Joe Solarino poses with his "ugly" tomato.

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Joe Solarino of Melville wins in the ugliest tomato category. 

Joe Solarino

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Joe Solarino receives his award from Newsday's Jessica Damiano.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Joe Solarino receives his award.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Joe Solarino receives his award.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Joe Solarino receives his award.

Benjamin Alcine

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Benjamin Alcine, 14, of New Hyde Park, weighs his tomato.

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Benjamin Alcine holds his tomato.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Benjamin Alcine weighs his tomato.

Christina Kraemer

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Christina Kraemer, of Bohemia, weighs her tomato. 

Gary Schaffer

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Gary Schaffer, of Lindenhurst, weighs his tomato.

Wyatt DePace

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Wyatt DePace's tomato is weighed during the tomato challenge.

Linda Prince

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Linda Prince, of North Bellmore, weighs her tomato.

Corinn Kraemer

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Corinn Kraemer, of Bohemia, holds out her tiny tomato. Kraemer, 19, won in the Smallest Tomato category for the second straight year. 

Credit: Johnny Milano

Corinn Kraemer accepts her prize.

Frank Rasizzi

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Frankie Rasizzi, of Northport, weighs his tomato. Rasizzi, 15, reigned in the Ages 13-17 category with his 2-pound, 3.5-ounce tomato of an unknown variety.

Gregory Nurick

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Gregory Nurick, 6, of Seaford, stops by the Tomato Challenge.

Catarina Rasizzi

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Catarina Rasizzi, of Northport, holds her "ugly" tomato.

Donna Rasizzi

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Donna Rasizzi weighs her tomato.

Frankie Rasizzi

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Frankie Rasizzi, of Northport, weighs his tomato.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Frankie Rasizzi, of Northport, accepts a prize for his winning tomato.

Walter O'Brisky

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Walter O'Brisky, of Westbury, weighs his tomato.

John Feder

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John Feder weighs his tomato.

Lizet Dobin

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Lizet Dobin, 42, of Dix Hills, helps measure her tomato.

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Lizet Dobin's tomato is being measured.

Antonio Turturiei

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Antonio Turturiei, 6, of Shirley, weighs his tomato.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Antonio Turturiei, 6, of Shirley, holds his tomato.

Ryan Murphy

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Ryan Murphy, of Franklin Square, weighs his tomato.

Alby Cerrone

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Eight-month old Alby Cerrone, of Bellerose, attends his first Tomato Challenge.

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Alby Cerrone, 8 months, of Bellrose, gets help weighing his tomato. 

Taline Vartanian

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The tiny tomato of Taline Vartanian, 10, of Garden City, is measured.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Taline Vartanian's tomato is measured.

Nairi Vartanian

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Nairi Vartanian, 13, of Garden City, weighs her tomato.

Tony Corsentino

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Tony Corsentino, of Mineola, weighs his tomato.

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Tony Corsentino's tomato is weighed.

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A tiny tomato is entered in the Tomato Challenge.

Arkapiusz Szczypior

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Arkapiusz Szczypior, 41, of Lindenhurst, has his tomatoes weighed.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Arkapiusz Szczypior's tomato is being weighed.

Oliver Szczypior

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Oliver Szczypior, 2, of Lindenhurst, presents his tomatoes.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Oliver Szczypior with his tomatoes.

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Oliver Szczypior holds his small tomato.

James Julian Dunn

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James Julian Dunn, 4, of Northport, weighs his tomato. 

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James Julian Dunn holds his tomato. He won among the 6-and-under set for his 2-pound, 1-ounce Sicilian saucer, which the preschooler grew from seed.

Credit: Johnny Milano

James Julian Dunn gets help weighing his tomato.

Credit: Johnny Milano

James Julian Dunn wins a prize for his 2-pound, 1-ounce Sicilian saucer.

Sandralee Capitain

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Sandralee Capitain, 72, of North Babylon, enters her tomatoes in the Challenge.   

Bruce Marcus

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Bruce Marcus, of Merrick, attends the Tomato Challenge.

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Bruce Marcus weighs his tomato.

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Bruce Marcus' tomato is measured for the Smallest Tomato contest.

Alayna Gottesman

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Alayna Gottesman, 9, of Farmingville, weighs her tomato.

Janet Hart

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Janet Hart, of Lindenhurst, weighs her tomato.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Janet Hart, of Lindenhurst, weighs her tomato.

Jack Maguire

Credit: Johnny Milano

Jack Maguire, of Kings Park, weighs his tomato.

Credit: Johnny Milano

Jack Maguire weighs his tomato.

Giovanni Cicciarella

Credit: Maria Cicciarella

Giovanni Cicciarella, of Deer Park, shows tomatoes he’s growing in his backyard. His late father-in-law, Vincenzo Domingo, won the inaugural Great Long Island Tomato Challenge in 2007 with his 3-pound, 14-ounce “Domingo” tomato.

Grace Bennett, Jeanie Waters and service dog McGrew

Credit: Grace Bennett

These “three redheads pulling weeds around heirloom tomatoes” are, clockwise from top, Grace Bennett, Jeanie Waters and service dog McGrew of Rockville Centre. “I am growing scarlet-topped Pritchard Heirlooms and lots of other kinds” of tomatoes, said Bennett, adding that she applies compost, baking soda and seaweed from ocean beaches on Long Island around her plants, and she doesn’t use any chemical sprays.

Kathleen Martingale

Credit: Kathleen Martingale

“The section of our yard that gets the most sun is on our driveway,” lamented Kathleen Martingale of Lynbrook. So she usually plants tomatoes and peppers in large pots, but this year she tried something different: “We had an old “grillzebo” (a gazebo-type space designed for grilling under) which had lost its canvas cover. We bought a large planter box and put the grillzebo inside, then planted five tomato plants. It [was] great to repurpose something that would have ended up in the landfill.” It’ not clear whether rescue dog Kylie is guarding the plants or waiting for a grilled treat.

Joanne Cornelius

Credit: Kevin Cornelius

Joanne Cornelius is growing 24 behemoth tomato plants in her Greenlawn garden, but her favorite is Super Sweet 100, which, she said, her family “eats right in the garden.” Over the years “we’ve learned to place the cages and wood stakes early, making it easier to tie the plants. Every week we add grass clippings from the lawn to reduce weeds and mulch the garden,” she added.

Wyatt DePace

Credit: Michele DePace

Wyatt DePace, 4, of Albertson, a winner in the 2017 Great Long Island Tomato Challenge, grew tomatoes again this year with his grandfather Walter O‘Brisky of Westbury. “He loves taking care of the plants with his grandpa,“ writes his mom, Michele DePace.

Annette Pennell

Credit: Elaine Mignone

“They will not be the biggest, the smallest and maybe not even the ugliest in Newsday’s  2018 Great Long Island Tomato Challenge, but these lovely Husky Cherry Red tomatoes are being grown at my office,” writes West Babylon's Annette Pennell, an accounts administrator at Wire to Water Inc. in Farmingdale. The plants are growing in full sun in a raised bed, which, Pennell says, makes them “easy to maintain during the day.” Pennell, who has staked the plants with PVC pipes from the company’s warehouse, says the three plants “greet our workers as we enter the building each day, and we anticipate having fresh tomatoes on our lunchtime salads.”

Frank Liccardi

Credit: Pat Licciardi

"My husband, Frank, has the magic touch this year," writes Pat Liccardi of West Islip. "He shades his beefsteak plant during the hot-sun part of the day. I don’t know his secret, but it’s working and we can’t wait to sink our teeth in a fresh garden tomato."

Rich Koenig

Credit: Carol Koenig

Reader Rich Koenig of Syosset has been planting tomatoes in whiskey barrels for 20 years. "First, I drill drainage holes," he says, "then place pieces of 4-by-4 wood under the barrels for air flow." Next, Koenig adds 3 to 4 inches of pebbles for drainage, fills the barrels with a combination of peat moss, cow manure and planting soil, and fertilizes twice per season. 

Anthony DiCocco

Credit: Anthony DiCocco

"Hard work and tender care are the keys to a fine crop, and as you can see, you get out what you put in," says reader Anthony DiCocco. The North Bellmore resident is growing red and yellow onions, butter leaf and redhead lettuces, bell peppers, Roma bush beans, Italian pole beans, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, cucumbers,and Swiss chard. But his pride and joy are his tomatoes. "I have Italian plum, cherry and mammoth heirlooms which will be ready for the August contest," he says, adding that he grows them organically without the use or fertilizers or chemicals and follows an "old-world Italian recipe" using a barrel and "secret" ingredients.

Tony Corsentino

Credit: Linda Corsentino

Tony Corsentino, of Mineola, is at it again, this year growing Italian Finesse tomatoes with a “new secret formula.” Looks like it’s working, Tony!

Janet Hart

Credit: Meryl Hart

Janet Hart, a legacy contestant of the Great Long Island Tomato Challenge, is participating for the 12th straight year, growing tomatoes as well as cucumbers and beans, in what she describes as her “very pathologically neat” garden in her Lindenhurst backyard. 

Alayna Gottesman

Credit: Sal Ferrante

Alayna Gottesman, 9, of Farmingville, braved the elements late last month and “took extra precautions to protect her hopefully prizewinning tomato plant from heavy spring rains,” reports her grandfather, Sal Ferrante of West Islip.

We’re sure the seasoned tomato grower, who has attended the Great Long Island Tomato Challenge since she was 5 — for more than half her life! — let some of that rain irrigate her plants. We’ll see Alayna at this year’s challenge.

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