The University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ Bradford Research Center is gearing up for its 13th annual Tomato Festival, which will take place on Thursday, Sept. 7.
The event will run from 4-7 p.m. and features tastings of about 150 varieties of tomatoes and about 75 varieties of peppers.
“This year, we’ll have heirlooms, hybrids, cherries, ground cherries, tomatillos, sweet peppers, jalapenos, habaneros, and many other varieties,” Superintendent Andrew Biggs said. “We’ll even have some of the world’s hottest peppers.”
Along with the tomato and pepper tastings, the Tomato Festival will feature salsa samples from area restaurants and presentations each hour. There will be two tours of the Bradford Research Center, at 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
There will also be a kids’ corner with milk tasting and games.
“The milk tasting is always a lot of fun,” Biggs said. “We get every flavor of milk that we can from Shatto Milk. It goes way beyond the basic plain, chocolate and strawberry flavors that most of us think of milk being.”
Bradford planted 25 varieties of tomatoes during its first ever Tomato Festival. That number has continued to grow over the years.
During the tastings, attendees can try as many tomatoes and peppers as they would like and score each variety on a scale of one to five. A score of one is a tomato or pepper that they really enjoy, a score of five is for a tomato or pepper they didn’t enjoy.
Bradford has tasting results from the past two years, as well as results from the 2017 Missouri State Fair.
“The tasting results are a great way to find out what other people like,” Biggs said. “You can take that information and try growing something new in your own garden next year, with some degree of confidence that it’ll end up being tasty.”
The Bradford Research Center is located at 4968 Rangeline Road in Columbia. For more information about the Tomato Festival, call 573-884-7945 or email Biggs at BiggsA@missouri.edu. For more information about the Bradford Research Center, visit bradford.cafnr.org.