Jessica Damiano Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 25 years experience in radio, television, print and online media. She has worked on Newsday's interactive endeavors since 1994, and currently is Deputy Editor overseeing's Lifestyle and Entertainment coverage. Jessica enjoys toiling in her garden -- a never-finished work in progress -- and helping local gardeners solve their horticultural problems in her Garden Detective column, which appears every Sunday in Newsday. Her Garden Detective column and blog have been awarded Press Club of Long Island Society of Professional Journalists Awards. Jessica lives in Glen Head, NY, with her husband John, daughters Justine and Julia, dogs Maddie and Miguel, and a whole bunch of perennials, vegetable plants and weeds. Ask a question Show More

Enter the 2017 Great Long Island Tomato Challenge

Peter Notarnicola of Massapequa took the top prize at last year’s Great Long Island Tomato Challenge with his behemoth 3-pound, 6.5-ounce Big Zac.

Notarnicola, 22, first entered the Challenge in 2011, when he was 16. He and his sister, Angel, then 18, took first place with their jointly grown 3-pound, 11.5-ounce Big Zac.

He’ll be back this year, having started more seeds this spring than ever before — and not just tomatoes. “I’m growing absolutely everything, even weird things like artichokes, cardoon, salsify,” he said. “If you can think it, I’m probably growing it.”

Are you in?

The 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge begins now. Give your plants plenty of tender loving care all summer long, then bring your biggest, heaviest fruit to the event, where it will be weighed and recorded by Newsday garden columnist Jessica Damiano.

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There is no need to register; just come to Newsday headquarters (235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville) with your entry on Friday, Aug. 18, at 7 p.m. Enter the Newsday property from Pinelawn Road and follow the red balloons.

As you await the big day, send a photo of yourself with your tomato plants, along with details about your growing techniques and the varieties you’re growing, to, and you might be featured in an upcoming issue of Newsday and on Then come back and follow the competition every Sunday all summer long.

The rules:

Tomatoes must be homegrown, fresh and not previously frozen. Only those entered in the Smallest category need to be ripe, and stems should be removed from all entries before weighing.

Entries will be judged in six categories:

— Heaviest adult-grown tomato (ages 18 and up)

— Three heaviest youth-grown categories: 6 and younger; 7-12; 13-17

— Smallest, all ages (measured, not weighed; must be red)

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— Ugliest, all ages (at the sole discretion of the judges)