Tasty tomato festival, however you pronounce it

  • Two-year-old Aina Buckley reaches for more Ghost Cherry Heirloom Tomato pieces on a sample plate at the 17th annual Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival, in Santa Rosa, Calif., on September 28, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Green tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, pink, scarlet, purple and even striped tomatoes. Tomato appetizers. Tomatoes in main courses. Tomatoes in desserts. Tomato ice cream. Really.

"It's amazing what you can do with a tomato," said Anna Krassovsky of Rohnert Park, who partook of the tomato bounty Saturday with friends at 17th Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival at Kendall-Jackson's Wine Estate and Gardens north of Santa Rosa.

"I never knew there were so many different tomatoes in one place," Krassovsky said.

Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival


She's not kidding. Under the Tasting Tent, there were 175 varietals of tomatoes, sliced for sampling. Familiar types like the hearty beefsteak and Brandywine gave way to more unusual green zebra, garden peach and Cherokee purples. Nearby, dozens of food booths celebrated the tasty member of the nightshade family in recipes of all manner.

Krassovsky's friends Irene Bogoslovsky and Helen Bogatsky of Forestville waited in a line to sample Fiorello's Artisan Gelato made with tomatoes and cucumber.

"It's very refreshing," Bogoslovsky said, contemplating the odd sample. "Different, but refreshing. What's that word — it's unctuous."

Proceeds from the $95 general admission and $150 VIP access tickets benefit Guy Fieri's Cooking with Kids Foundation, a nonprofit organization that encourages kids to develop healthy eating habits.

The sold-out event, which drew 2,500 people, highlights local chefs and food purveyors in their pursuit of innovative and delicious uses for the seasonal fruit — now at its height of ripeness.

At Smash Foods Company, crowds loved Jennifer Hedgpeth's Hottie Habanero and Aggie's Heirloom "tomato smash," paired with an herbed cheese mix atop a crostini.

"We started the company to showcase an 80-year-old family recipe for old-fashioned tomato relish," she said. "Everyone always said there wasn't anything like it."

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