No matter how you slice it, Long Islanders love the tomato, and two farms embrace that passion each August with big festivals celebrating the humble red fruit.
Harbes Family Farm in Mattituck and Garden of Eve in Riverhead will each host two-day tomato festivals over the next two weekends, highlighting their heirloom harvests with tastings, tomato eating and throwing contests, and other outdoor activities and attractions.
“Nothing says summer on the North Fork like the taste of a freshly picked tomato,” says Timothy Mulrain, marketing assistant at Harbes Family Farm. “Whether they be cherry, beefsteak or heirloom — tomatoes are synonymous with the summer season and people enjoy taking part in celebrating and enjoying them.”
Tomato festivals are among the most popular events at both farms each year, close or on the heels of their corn and garlic events, respectively. Harbes’ fifth annual tomato festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12, and Sunday, Aug. 13, while Garden of Eve will celebrate its sixth annual event 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 19-20.
Varieties available at Garden of Eve include green tiger (greenish-yellow flesh color with a bold, sweet and acidic flavor), striped German (reddish yellow with stripes and a mildly tart flavor), pork chop (ripens to gold and has a tomato flavor with hints of citrus), sunrise bumblebee (oblong little fruits with a sweet taste), Iron Lady and “the old standbys” such as Brandywine (pink heirloom variety), yellow Brandywine and big beef (large, red and flavorful), says co-owner Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht, for whom the farm is named. Harbes will have its own heirloom tomatoes for sale as well as beefsteak, cherry and grape varieties.
Prices vary at both farms. Beefsteak and heirloom tomatoes run $2.99 to $4.99 at Harbes with cherry and grape bundles priced at $5.95 per pint. Garden of Eve charges a flat rate of $3.50 for red tomatoes and $5 per pound for heirlooms.
Kaplan-Walbrecht expects about 1,000 people to visit her 65-acre farm each day of the festival. Mulrain anticipates several hundred people to head to Harbes this weekend.
Among Harbes’ most popular attractions are its tomato-eating contests, which take place twice daily and include 20 to 30 participants who compete to see who can eat a tomato the fastest — without using their hands. There’s no tangible prize, but the winner does get crowned Tomato King or Queen for the day.
Garden of Eve takes a more hands-on approach with its competition, a timed event where competitors have to throw rotten tomatoes through a small hole and avoid having them go “splat.”
For noncompetitive types, Garden of Eve serves up samples via tomato-tasting and salsa-making events and offer hayrides. Harbes will have live music, assorted vendors and children’s activities, including a tomato rolling and tomato relay races at its celebration. Harbes Family Farm’s Barnyard Adventure — a paid admission attraction area — will also be open both days and provide access to farm animals.
Tomatoes are typically in season at both farms through October.
As for why the festival continues to resonate with people, Kaplan-Walbrecht says it’s in the variety.
“It’s fun,” she says, “to see all the diversity that is out there.”
Harbes Family Farm Tomato Festival
WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 12-13, 715 Sound Ave., Mattituck
INFO Free; 631-298-0800, harbesfamilyfarm.com
Garden of Eve Farm Tomato Festival
WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Aug. 19-20, 4558 Sound Ave., Riverhead
INFO Free; 631-722-8777, gardenofevefarm.com
NEWSDAY’S TOMATO CHALLENGE
Will you be the 2017 Tomato Challenge king or queen? Bring your best homegrown tomato to Newsday (235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville) at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, when it will be weighed by Newsday garden columnist Jessica Damiano. There will be six prize categories:
- Heaviest adult-grown tomato (ages 18 and up)
- Three heaviest youth-grown tomatoes (ages 6 and younger; 7-12; 13-17)
- Smallest, all ages (measured, not weighed; must be red)
- Ugliest, all ages (judges’ discretion)
In the meantime, send a note and photo of yourself with your tomatoes to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you might be featured in Newsday.