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Lindenhurst grower wins Long Island Tomato Challenge

Gary Schaffer of Lindenhurst, with his wife, Linda,

Gary Schaffer of Lindenhurst, with his wife, Linda, shows off his 3 lb., 6 oz. winning tomato. He picked it 10 days ago and kept in the refrigerator until the Challenge. (Aug. 24, 2012) Credit: Nicole Horton

We have a winner!

The 6th annual Great Long Island Tomato Challenge was held with much fanfare Friday evening, with gardeners from all over Long Island gathering in Newsday's Melville auditorium to spend a couple of hours with me, share their growing secrets, their jokes and compete for the title of Long Island Tomato King or Queen.

Gary Schaffer of Lindenhurst took top honors for his 3 lb., 6 oz. Rhode Island Giant, the heaviest of 41 tomatoes brought to my scale. 

Coming in second was a 2 lb., 15 oz., Big Zac raised by William S. Boyziotis of Northport, and Ellen Papadopoulos of Jericho took third place for another Big Zac. Hers weighed 2 lb., 12 oz.

In all, some 140 people shared in the festivities, among them Anthony Passela, who won in the Kids category for his 1 lb., 6.6 oz Beefsteak. Rachel Haimowitz took second place among kids for her 1 lb. 4.3 oz. Amana Orange tomato, and Lucas Rios, a mere 5 1/2 years old, won third for his 1 lb., 3.5 oz. Big Zac.

On the other end of the spectrum, there was a three-way tie for smallest tomato -- all weighing in at zero ounces. (This happens when an item weighs less than the scale can register, which in this case is one-one hundreth of an ounce.) Sharing the Tiny Tomato honors were Tina Kraemer of Bohemia, Steven Sicurella of Bethpage and the 2011 King and Queen, brother-and-sister duo Angel and Peter Notarnicola of Massapequa.

And I would be remiss not to honor the grower of the ugliest tomato because, as we all know, it's the ugliest ones that taste best. Vito Cottone of Commack didn't divulge the variety of his, aside from calling it "unusual." And boy, was it!

If you'd like a piece of the action next year, brush up now with my tips for growing tomatoes on Long Island.

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