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Old September 9, 2009   #1
Cecilia_MD7a
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Default Baltimore Sun Article on MAGTAG - 09/09/09

Rob Kasper's article on our festival appeared in the food section of today's Baltimore Sun (last week it was bumped for his review of the food at the Maryland State Fair). He included a recipe for Tomato Pie (either the same or similar to Cheryll's) Here's the text of the article:


Group seeks out season's tastiest tomato varieties
Rob Kasper
September 9, 2009

It looked like a picnic. But it was actually a tomato tasting, a thorough one.

Fifty-eight different types of tomatoes - cherries, currants, heirlooms, hybrids - were sitting on picnic tables in a pavilion in Baltimore County's Southwest Park.

It was the annual get-together of MAGTAG, or the Mid-Atlantic Gardeners' Tomato Appreciation Gathering, a loose-knit group bound together by their fondness for the "love apple." Most of the 42 folks attending found out about the event by word of mouth or by prowling around two online gardening communities, Gardenweb.com and Tomatoville.com.

I arrived at the park on a Saturday afternoon just as the field of favorites had been narrowed to two contenders, a white currant and a small brown cherry called Morx. Asked to issue a judgment, I ate both and picked the Morx. It had both the tang of a Cherokee and the sweetness of a currant.

It turned out that both contenders were grown by Greg Flynn, a software engineer who propagated something close to 750 tomato seedlings in his Damascus garden.

I grow a few tomatoes. This year I have about 25 plants, but I had never heard of Morx.

That's because Flynn made up the name. "It is short for mutant or cross. I wasn't exactly sure which it was," said Flynn. Eventually, Flynn determined that the Morx is a cross between a green Cherokee tomato and a white currant.

Other top finishers were the Matt's Wild Cherry, the Persimmon, and the Black Cherry grown by Anne Bertinuson of Monrovia, in Frederick County. The Absint, Chang Li and Guernsey's Pink Blush grown by Trudi Davidoff , who traveled to the gathering from East Meadow, N.Y., also ranked as among the top 10 tastiest tomatoes.

The proceedings had folksy flavor. Tasters registered their approval by dropping pennies in plastic cups placed behind each plate of tomatoes. Three pennies was the equivalent of three stars, two pennies meant very good, one penny signified good and no penny meant it was a "spitter," aka bad or flavorless. When the voting ended, the tomatoes with the most cents won.

The winners got "medals," glittery paper creations that had been crafted by Flynn's five children, who range in age from 1 to 9, and their playmates. Winners strutted down the pavilion, ignoring the biting flies, flaunting their "medals." When Flynn was presented his first-place award, he carried a daughter in one arm and a bouquet of basil leaves in the other as the assemblage sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Besides the 58 plates of naked tomatoes, many dishes of tomato-friendly foods, prepared by the gardeners, ringed the pavilion.

For instance, Cecilia Strakna, one of the organizers, cooked six pounds of bacon - four pounds of pork bacon and two pounds of turkey bacon - for fans of the BLT. "I think my nephew ate most of the real bacon," she reported later.

Each year presents tomato-growing challenges, and this season's pattern of a wet spring, a dry July and thunderstorms in August, played havoc with the crop, the gardeners said.

Overall, the 2009 crop seems to me to lack the acidity, the edge if you will, of prior years. This is what tomato-growers do: We muse about the fine points, or lack thereof, in the "vintage."

"Honestly, the only tomato that I thought really had that nice tang was Morx, the brown cherry that won first place," Strakna replied to me via an e-mail, when I mentioned that this was a bland year. "Most of the people that I've talked to say that they think the wet spring was to blame, but I'm not sure how that would affect the taste. But you never know how a variety is going to perform from year to year. The first season I grew Black Cherry, it was awful, but it was delicious the next year," she said.

Oh, the vicissitudes of growing tomatoes. A main worry now is keeping pace with the harvest, the heavy load of produce pumped out by our plants.

After endless servings of sliced tomatoes, after making quarts of tomato sauce and after several sessions making oven-dried cherry tomatoes - slice tomatoes in half, drizzle them with salted olive oil and cook for three hours in a 200-degrees oven - I was still on the lookout for another tomato dish.

Cheryll Green gave me one, a tomato pie. She and her husband, Hank, drove an hour and half to the Baltimore county tasting from their home in Winchester, Va. The Greens brought some Cherokee Purple, Brandywine tomatoes and a tomato pie. The pie recipe she used called for Hanover Tomatoes, a type that some Virginians, especially those who reside in Hanover County, regard as the ultimate tomato.

Green, who lives in Frederick County, Va., substituted some Cherokees.


Tomato Pie
Makes: 8 servings

1 (9-inch) frozen pie crust
7 tomatoes, sliced, drained of seeds and juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar or enough to sprinkle each layer
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (3-ounce) package shredded Parmesan cheese
Parsley, chives or basil (see note)

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Line pie crust with foil, and fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove the weights and bake for 4 to 5 minutes longer. Layer the tomato slices in the pie crust, sprinkling each layer evenly with sugar, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the top layer with flour. Combine the mayonnaise and cheese in a bowl, mix well and spread over the tomatoes.

Note: The author adds parsley, chives, or basil to the pie before baking.

From: Celebrate Virginia Cookbook by Rowena J. Fullenwider, James A. Crutchfield and Winette Sparkman-Jeffery

Nutrition information
Per serving: 395 calories, 31 grams fat, 7 grams saturated fat, 18 milligrams cholesterol, 571 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber, 24 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams protein

Nutritional analysis calculated by registered dietitian Jodie Shield


This is a link to the web version (if you want to see it before it is archived:
http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertai...3102326.column
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Old September 9, 2009   #2
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Here's a photo of Rob and Greg, with Rob declaring Morx the winner over White Currant.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Rob&Greg.jpg (404.1 KB, 21 views)
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Old September 9, 2009   #3
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Forgot to mention - in the print version, the column title read, "IN THIS CONTEST, TASTIEST TOMATOES HAVE MOST CENTS."

(Two-thirds of a pun is P-U)

I guess we'll have to retain the Penny method of judging now!
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Old September 9, 2009   #4
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That is truely a detailed article about our event. Very nice indeed. Rob can come every year if he wants :-)

Last edited by gflynn; September 9, 2009 at 01:24 PM.
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Old September 9, 2009   #5
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What a great article!
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Old September 9, 2009   #6
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Maybe if Rob makes it next year we can throw a tomato pie in his face!
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Old September 9, 2009   #7
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The comment in the article about Cheryll's recipe calling for "the Hanover tomato" made me wonder whether this is a specific variety, or whether the term just refers to any tomato grown in Hanover, VA. I did a web search and came up with a link to the Hanover Tomato Festival, but it doesn't go into detail about the tomato itself. If there really is a Hanover variety, it might be fun to add it to my Mid-Atlantic collection next year. Any idea where I can get seeds? (yeah, I know - Hanover.)

http://www.co.hanover.va.us/parksrec...t/contests.htm
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Old September 9, 2009   #8
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Hurray! We're famous!

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Old September 10, 2009   #9
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Very nice article. (Is the recipe correct? Is the pie really not baked after ingredients are placed in the crust?)
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Old September 10, 2009   #10
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Default finishing the tomato pie

So sorry for the incomplete recipe. The recipe says bake it for 30 min, but I baked a little longer trying to dry it up a bit. I also could not use 7 tomatoes in one pie-Hanovers must be small.
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