No matter which way you slice it, some farm out there is growing the best tomatoes available. On Thursday, a panel of judges in Boston will crown a winner.
"It's a friendly competition, and it's a fun event to raise awareness about local agriculture," said David Webber, program coordinator for the state Department of Agricultural Resources.
Webber has been a lead organizer of the contest for more than a decade, and has seen his share of plump and tender entries.
"The growers take it seriously," he said. "People are pretty passionate about tomatoes, in terms of it being a good tasting tomato."
The contest is sponsored by the department, the New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Association , and the Mass. Farmers' Markets.
August through September is the peak season for tomato-growing, Webber said, so it's a perfect time for farmers to show off their goods.
Growers can submit their tomatoes in four main categories: cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, field tomatoes, and heaviest tomatoes (some can weigh up to 3 pounds).
Each participant can enter as many categories as they want.
Last year, there were more than 100 tomato entries across the categories from farms statewide.
A panel of judges made up of chefs, cookbook authors, and food critics will pick the best of the bunch based on their flavor, firmness, sliceability, exterior color, and overall shape.
According to the contest guidelines, the perfect tomato has a strong tomato taste, is slightly acidic, has tender skin and a uniform color, and is neither too mushy nor too hard.
"There is definitely a range of tastes and varieties. Some are sweeter; and there are varieties of colors. Tomatoes lend themselves to judging really well," Webber said.
The top three winners for each category will receive a gold-colored trophy with a ripe red plastic tomato plopped on top of it.
The top five will receive special certificates designating them one of the top tomato growers in the state. "And of course, bragging rights," said Webber.