Rebecca Varidel
18th Nov 2014

We all love a tomato. Especially the gorgeous heirloom types.

“The Tomato Festival promotes heirloom varieties of tomatoes which have not been genetically modified or hybridised for mass production. They develop naturally with pollination occurring through wind, insects and birds,” said Dr Brett Summerell, about the Sydney Royal Botanic Garden annual festival.

“Hybrid tomatoes are the type you buy from large department stores. These seeds are created in a lab from crossing two or three tomatoes to get big yields that don’t rot or go bad so quickly.

The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney is hoping to start a tomato growing frenzy in the lead up to its February Tomato Festival, which promises prizes for best home grown tomatoes, as well as loads of tomato-y entertainment.

“Leading up to summer is the perfect time to sow tomato seeds at home. If you grow your own it helps biodiversity and a bonus is you can enter them into the Tomato Festival’s ‘Best in Show Competition’,” he said.

Sydney will be a little more sedate than La Tomatina (the Valencian tomato throwing festival) when it holds its own Tomato Festival in the Royal Botanic Gardens next year. So get growing and join in the tomato-y fun.

Tomato Festival 2015 Highlights

• Pietro Demaio presentss master classes using recipes from his book 'Preserving the Italian Way'
• 4 course tomato inspired degustation menu at the Botanic Gardens Restaurant
• Pop-up café and bar
• Local tomato inspired and organic produce for sale
• Themed guided walks
• Free tomato taste test – 20 varieties to try - this year’s winners: Wapsipinicon Peach & Green Grape
• Non-stop free talks – growing tips, propagation, the role of bees, fermentation, pickling and more
• Competitions – Best Tomato Chutney/Relish Challenge and Passata Sauce Challenge

For more information about the Tomato Festival Sydney visit:

“At this year’s Tomato Festival the public tasted 20 varieties which included hybrids and Heirlooms. The people’s choice award went to Heirloom varieties which are superior flavour and texture. There’ll be another free taste test at next year’s Festival.

“It’s important to preserve plant biodiversity. Because Heirlooms are not hybridised, gardeners can collect their own seed from them each year, which allows you to control your own seed source. Once a seed disappears it can’t be recreated and therefore biodiversity decreases. So get planting now and enter our competitions!” Dr Summerell said.

Heirloom seedlings are now available from the Growing Friends Nursery (access via Mrs Macquaries Road) at the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney.

The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney partnered with the Diggers Club for the Tomato Festival. Diggers rescued Heirloom tomato seeds about 25 years ago and introduced them to Australian gardeners in 1991.

Photo by Jaime Plaza, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney.

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