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Amateur gardeners compete with unusual fruits and vegetables

Sam Sabbagh, 4, of Westbury, poses with a

Sam Sabbagh, 4, of Westbury, poses with a homegrown zucchini at Hick's Nurseries in Westbury on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015. Sam entered his zucchini in the Summer Harvest Competition. Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

Sam Sabbagh held his three-pound zucchini high over his head with pride before surrendering it to the judge's table.

The 3-year-old from Westbury had entered his giant vegetable into the Hicks Nurseries' first-ever Summer Harvest Competition on Saturday, and it proved to be a legitimate contender for the "largest zucchini" blue ribbon.

"They're my favorite to grow and my favorite to eat," said Sam, who learned to love gardening while visiting Restoration Farm, a co-op farm in Old Bethpage, with his parents.

Sam also submitted his ground cherries to the "most uncommon vegetable" contest. Several people -- including the Hicks Nurseries staff -- squinted at the small green buds Sam had laid on the judging table, unsure what exactly they were.

"We didn't even plant the ground cherries," Sam said. "They just started growing."

Neither of Sam's entries took first place -- his zucchini was beaten out by a 4-pound, 6.6-ouncer submitted by Charlie Terranova of Oyster Bay Cove, and the most uncommon vegetable section was won by Jaya Indaram, of Old Westbury, with a nearly 3-foot-long snake gourd.

But Sam wasn't upset, because each youth was awarded a participation certificate, which he proudly accepted.

"It's important that Sam learns about not winning," said his mom, Lucia Bauknight. "I just didn't think it would happen in a zucchini contest."

Linda Notarnicola of Massapequa was at the competition representing her son Peter, a farmer at Old Bethpage Village who won Newsday's 2011 "Great Long Island Tomato Challenge" but couldn't attend Saturday's event.

Notarnicola entered vegetables in three categories, including "heaviest tomato," as well as "funniest-looking" and "most-unusual" vegetable.

Her Siamese squash -- two yellow gourds that had merged with one another -- took home the blue ribbon for the "funniest-looking. Her tomato, which weighed in at over two pounds, was named heaviest of the day.Anthony Gnafakis, 12, of Bayside, arrived at the competition with a scraggly brown bush that had two small, shiny tomatoes hanging from its branches, which he entered into the "beginner gardener" section.

Even though he said he had only begun gardening in April, Anthony spoke about his hobby with expertise, listing the strawberries, lettuce, onions, eggplants, rosemary, parsley and basil he had grown.

His mother, Gloria, said she had simply mentioned she wanted to cook with basil.

Sneh Shuklaof Westhampton won "most beautiful bouquet," with a collection of flowers she had picked from her garden that morning. Her bouquet was the only entry, but she was excited to receive her blue ribbon nonetheless.

All winners also received a $25 gift card to Hicks Nurseries. Karen Musgrave, organizer of the competition and the Westbury business, said she was happy the event helped bring together the gardening community, young and old. She said she plans to hold a similar contest next year.

"I grew up with my father teaching me how to garden, and he taught me everything I know," she said. "This is really a great way to spend quality time with your parents or friends or neighbors. And it's a skill you don't learn in front of a television or a phone."


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