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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Newsday's 2017 Great Long Island Tomato Challenge

On Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, Newsday invited tomato growers from across Long Island to show off their best gardening efforts in competitions relating to tomatoes - biggest, smallest, and even ugliest.  (Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman)

More than 60 readers attended the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

From left: John Barrera of West Babylon with
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

From left: John Barrera of West Babylon with son Luke, 11, and mother-in-law Hanna Hendrickson of Babylon, arrive at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Jared Schaffer of North Babylon has his tomato
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Jared Schaffer of North Babylon has his tomato weighed at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Alberto Oppedisano and his winning tomato at the
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Alberto Oppedisano and his winning tomato at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Walter O'Brisky of Westbury has his entry weighed
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Walter O'Brisky of Westbury has his entry weighed at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Theresa Maddaloni of Oceanside has her tomato weighed
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Theresa Maddaloni of Oceanside has her tomato weighed at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Christina Kraemer of Bohemia receives her award at
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Christina Kraemer of Bohemia receives her award at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Wyatt DePace, 3, of Albertson, shows off his
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Wyatt DePace, 3, of Albertson, shows off his tomato entry as he arrives to the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. DePace later won an award for his entry.

Wyatt DePace, 3, of Albertson receives his award
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Wyatt DePace, 3, of Albertson receives his award at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Jared Schaffer of North Babylon has his tomato
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Jared Schaffer of North Babylon has his tomato weighed at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Wyatt DePace, 3, of Albertson, has his entry
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Wyatt DePace, 3, of Albertson, has his entry weighed at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

From left: Alberto Oppedisano and Joseph Ciurleo, both
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

From left: Alberto Oppedisano and Joseph Ciurleo, both of Franklin Square, show off their tomato entries as they arrive to the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Wyatt DePace, 3, of Albertson receives his award
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Wyatt DePace, 3, of Albertson receives his award at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Alayna Gotttesman, 8, of Farmingville, shows off her
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Alayna Gotttesman, 8, of Farmingville, shows off her tomato entries as she arrives to the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Harold Taiclet of Farmingdale weighs his entry at
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Harold Taiclet of Farmingdale weighs his entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Sophia Fasano, 7, of Deer Park, receives her
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Sophia Fasano, 7, of Deer Park, receives her award at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Al Tiranno of Smithtown has his tomato weighed
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Al Tiranno of Smithtown has his tomato weighed at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Antonio and Alessandro Turturici of Shirley weigh their
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Antonio and Alessandro Turturici of Shirley weigh their entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Alberto Oppedisano, right, with Newsday's Jessica Damiano, received
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Alberto Oppedisano, right, with Newsday's Jessica Damiano, received the top award at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Al Tiranno of Smithtown has his tomato weighed
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Al Tiranno of Smithtown has his tomato weighed at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Alayna Gotttesman, 8, of Farmingville, receives her award
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Alayna Gotttesman, 8, of Farmingville, receives her award at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Gary Schaffer of Lindenhurst has his tomato weighed
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Gary Schaffer of Lindenhurst has his tomato weighed at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Some of the entries for ugliest tomato at
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Some of the entries for ugliest tomato at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Aleigha Juliano of East Meadow has her tomato
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Aleigha Juliano of East Meadow has her tomato measured at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Harold Taiclet of Farmingdale weighs his entry at
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Harold Taiclet of Farmingdale weighs his entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

From left: Meryl Hart and Janet Hart, both
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

From left: Meryl Hart and Janet Hart, both of Lindenhurst, show off their tomato entries as they arrive to the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Newsday's Jessica Damiano announces the winners at the
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Newsday's Jessica Damiano announces the winners at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Wyatt DePace, 3, of Albertson receives his award
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Wyatt DePace, 3, of Albertson receives his award at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Sophia Fasano, 7, of Deer Park, receives her
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Sophia Fasano, 7, of Deer Park, receives her award at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Wyatt DePace, 3, of Albertson, and his grandpa
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Wyatt DePace, 3, of Albertson, and his grandpa Walter O'Brisky of Westbury, arrive at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Alberto Oppedisano gifted his winning tomato to Newsday's
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Alberto Oppedisano gifted his winning tomato to Newsday's Jessica Damiano at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

A sign welcomes visitors to the 11th annual
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A sign welcomes visitors to the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Alayna Gotttesman, 8, left, and her brother Evan,
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Alayna Gotttesman, 8, left, and her brother Evan, 12, both of Farmingville, show off their tomato entries as they arrive to the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Alayna Gottesman later won an award for her entry.

Newsday's Jessica Damiano prepares to measure Jean Ward
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Newsday's Jessica Damiano prepares to measure Jean Ward of Islip's tomato entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Christina Kraemer has her tomato measured at the
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Christina Kraemer has her tomato measured at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Nick and Ellie Varrone of Wantagh have their
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Nick and Ellie Varrone of Wantagh have their tomatoes measured at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Daniel and Anthony Prudente of Syosset prepare to
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Daniel and Anthony Prudente of Syosset prepare to measure their tomato entries at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Edward Fasano, 4, left, and and Sophia Fasano,
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Edward Fasano, 4, left, and and Sophia Fasano, 7, both of Deer Park, weigh their tomato entries at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Clara Rogus has her tomato measured at the
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Clara Rogus has her tomato measured at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Jessica Damiano measures Seth Agoglia's entry at the
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Jessica Damiano measures Seth Agoglia's entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Philip Grombliniak of Levittown and Gia at the
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Philip Grombliniak of Levittown and Gia at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Christina Kraemer of Bohemia has her tomato weighed
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Christina Kraemer of Bohemia has her tomato weighed at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Alfred Richert of Bethpage has his tomato weighed
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Alfred Richert of Bethpage has his tomato weighed at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Philip Grombliniak of Levittown and Gia have their
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Philip Grombliniak of Levittown and Gia have their tomato weighed at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Jessica Damiano measures Daniel and Anthony Prudente of
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Jessica Damiano measures Daniel and Anthony Prudente of Syosset's entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Seth Agoglia of West Islip, right, prepares to
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Seth Agoglia of West Islip, right, prepares to measure his entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Evan Gottesman of Farmingville weighs his entry at
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Evan Gottesman of Farmingville weighs his entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Attendees at the 11th annual Great Long Island
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Attendees at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Janet Hart of Lindenhurst weighs her entry at
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Janet Hart of Lindenhurst weighs her entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Joseph Ciurleo of Franklin Square prepares to weigh
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Joseph Ciurleo of Franklin Square prepares to weigh his entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Jack Maguire of Kings Park shows off his
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Jack Maguire of Kings Park shows off his entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Meryl Hart of Lindenhurst weighs her entry at
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Meryl Hart of Lindenhurst weighs her entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Alberto Oppedisano of Franklin Square looks on as
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Alberto Oppedisano of Franklin Square looks on as his winning entry is weighed at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Connor Webster of North Babylon prepares to weigh
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Connor Webster of North Babylon prepares to weigh his entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Genevieve Jezick of Hicksville weighs her entry at
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Genevieve Jezick of Hicksville weighs her entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Tony Corsentino of Mineola shows off his entry
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Tony Corsentino of Mineola shows off his entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Alberto Oppedisano of Franklin Square weighs his tomato
Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Alberto Oppedisano of Franklin Square weighs his tomato entry at the 11th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge at Newsday headquarters in Melville, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Oppedisano's tomato was later declared the heaviest of the evening.

Connor Webster

Connor Webster, 5, stands with his tomato plant
Photo Credit: Lauren Webster

Connor Webster, 5, stands with his tomato plant that he waters and feeds by himself. "It's his first year growing tomatoes and his plant is taller than our 6-foot fence and has about 30 tomatoes on it," said mom, Lauren.

Anthony DiCocco

Reader Anthony DiCocco seems to have a miniature
Photo Credit: Anthony DiCocco

Reader Anthony DiCocco seems to have a miniature farm in his North Bellmore backyard. This year, he's growing lettuce, arugula, red and yellow onions, bush and pole beans, zucchini, peppers and several varieties of tomatoes, including plum, cherry and 4- to 5-pound behemoths, in his 750-square-foot vegetable garden.

This comes as no surprise, as DiCocco has a lineage that traces back to tomato royalty: His mother, Vera DiCocco, also of North Bellmore, was crowned Tomato Queen in 2015.

DiCocco plays classic rock for his plants "every once in a while," but reveals the real secret of his success is "my homemade special soup." He's tight-lipped about the ingredients, but it seems to be working.

Mark Polstein

Mark Polstein, of Lido Beach, said he started
Photo Credit: Elisa Fante

Mark Polstein, of Lido Beach, said he started growing tomatoes as a child with his father and grandfather. This year, his plants are 9 feet tall and, he said, "the landscapers who cut my grass take selfies with my plants to send back to their families in their countries because they have never seen plants so tall and full of tomatoes."

Seth Agoglia

Seth Agoglia, 10, of West Islip, loves to
Photo Credit: Ginger Filangeri

Seth Agoglia, 10, of West Islip, loves to grow vegetables for his family and is especially proud of his Big Boy tomato plant, which his grandfather started from seed in North Carolina. Entrusted with the plant, Seth nurtured it, and now it's "almost as tall as me," he said, adding that even his tomato cage "has a hard time holding it up." Seth reports "lots of flowers on this really tall plant," but laments, "I'm still waiting for my tomatoes." Hang in there, Seth, they're coming very soon!

Steven Bottega

Steven Bottega, of Ronkonkoma, is getting dwarfed by
Photo Credit: Steven Bottega

Steven Bottega, of Ronkonkoma, is getting dwarfed by his tomato plants. "I am 6 feet tall," he said, "and these tomatoes are peaking at 8 feet." What's his secret? "I use cow manure."

Patrick Dean

Reader Patrick Dean has a secret to increase

Reader Patrick Dean has a secret to increase his tomato harvest, and it involves an electric toothbrush. Dean, of West Islip, uses the brush to "self-pollinate." "You just go from flower to flower with it, like a bee," he said. The result? "Higher yields!" Dean started all his plants from seed, and says he picked up some tips recently on a trip to wild boar farms in California: weeding out weaker plants, watering strategically and using proper soil mixes. As of July 1, he reports 150 tomatoes already! Here, Dean poses with his dachshund: "My boy Otto, like most dachshunds, suffers from disk problems due to being a true dwarf breed, but happy to say after eight weeks caged, he's good. And I'm not choking him, just cautiously protecting his neck."

Patrick Dean, of West Islip, who got creative
Photo Credit: Patrick Dean

Patrick Dean, of West Islip, who got creative in the garden and hybridized black and yellow tomatoes, wound up harvesting these interesting specimens earlier this month.

Mark Klapow

Photo Credit: Fran Klapow

"I don't have tomato plants or bushes," says reader Mark Klapow. "I have tomato trees!" That's quite a feat considering Klapow's Wantagh garden "is not that big, with only five tomato plants, one cucumber plant and some herbs in a pot." Klapow credits the heat exuding from his AstroTurf back lawn with warming up the roots, resulting in a a harvest of about three pounds of tomatoes daily.

Tony Corsentino

Veteran challenger Tony Corsentino of Mineola is back
Photo Credit: Linda Corsentino

Veteran challenger Tony Corsentino of Mineola is back at it this year, treating his plants to "new fertilizer mixtures and straight fish bone mixed into the soil." Always a good sport, he's "wishing all the competitors lots of luck while enjoying the event."

Dominic Pascucci

Dominic Pascucci, of Glen Cove,
Photo Credit: Dominic Pascucci

Dominic Pascucci, of Glen Cove, "has the greenest thumb I have ever known," writes his daughter, Pam Pascucci Giorgi, also of Glen Cove. "He has had a huge garden in our backyard for as long as I can remember, with hundreds of tomato, pepper and other vegetable plants each year, and just about every plant begins from seeds, first in the basement, then to the greenhouse and finally planted in his garden."

Here, Pascucci, 88, stands near his "upside-down, topsy-turvy tomato planter." After seeing similar planters advertised, Pascucci developed his own version using repurposed household items. And he even improved upon the original design: "Seeing that there was 'wasted space,' he not only has a plant coming out of the bottom, but one growing from the top," his daughter said.

Relatives affectionately refer to Pascucci's garden as "Grandpa's Frankengarden" because "he has grafted different varieties of trees together and also grows exotic fruits and vegetables," which he shares with family and friends, his daughter said. "We, his family, are a million times blessed."

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