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5 Ounces Off a World Record Tomato
Canada's Great Hunt organizer Sal Consiglio presents the winner's check to Gianfranco Sarin
Eric Shackle (shack)     Print Article 
Published 2007-09-12 09:02 (KST)   
Sal Consiglio (left) and Gianfranco Sarin
©2007 S. Consiglio
Canadian Gianfranco Sarin grew this huge, grotesque tomato in his Toronto backyard, hoping to break the long-standing world record of 7 pounds 12 ounces (3.52kg). It turned the scales at 7 pounds 7 ounces (3.175 kg). Nice try, but no cigar.

That was last year, when he won Canada's annual Great Tomato Hunt run by Toronto kitchen store owner Sal Consiglio, aka Mr. Tomato. Last week another Toronto grower, Guiseppi Spatari, took out first prize of $3,000 in the 2007 contest, but his entry weighed only 4 pounds 12 ounces (2.155 kg).

Second prize went to David Bertucci from Caledon, Ontario with a 4 pound 10 ounce (2.12 kg) tomato, and third prize to Dr. Marvin Meisner, a retired cardiologist from Pennsylvania USA for a 4 pound 9 ounce (2.075 kg) fruit.

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"We had a very hot summer -- not the best conditions for growing tomatoes this year," Consiglio told OhmyNews. "But you're right, it will be difficult to beat Gordon Graham's world record."

"Anyways, if we do eventually beat Graham's record great, if not we just enjoy doing the contest anyway as it helps kick off our tomato squeezing season (to make tomato sauce) for our tomato squeezers and accessories plus we donate money to the Heart and Stroke Foundation (over $24,000 Canadian to date)."

[In an earlier story we recalled that 21 years ago Gordon Graham, a painting contractor in Edmond, Oklahoma, grew a tomato weighing 7 pounds 12 ounces (3.52 kg). No one has grown a larger tomato since then, although thousands have tried.]

We asked Consiglio why so many Italo-Canadians are such good tomato growers. He replied:
"It may have something to do with the fact that, as I found out in my research, Italians were one of the first cultures to grow tomatoes as food back in the 1600s or so. Apparently tomatoes did not become widely accepted as food until the early 1800s because many people considered them poisonous as they are from the nightshade family, which includes some very poisonous plants.

Later, the first tomatoes for market were grown in Sicily for markets in Naples and Rome. So there is a lot of history with Italians and tomatoes (and of course tomato sauce). I also found out that the name is derived from the Aztec word `Tomatl' (tomatoes apparently originated in South America and it is thought that Spanish priests brought them to Europe from Mexico in the mid-1500s)."
Why are most monster tomatoes so badly shaped? Third prize winner Dr. Marvin Meisner from Pennsylvania explained it to Washington Post staff writer Adrian Higgins earlier this month:

"Meisner... searches for a bloom that is fuller than the others, picks it and then plucks all of the petal-like anthers from the flower to reveal not one pistil -- the organ whose base swells to become the actual tomato -- but two fused together."

"A regular tomato has just one. Beefsteak varieties sometimes have two. When you see three, four or more fused pistils, you know you have hit pay dirt in the world of giant tomatoes. Such a flower may produce a tomato for every pistil, all of them morphing into one big, ugly lobed fruit that in weight and appearance resembles a small pumpkin."

Minnie Zaccaria has won the New Jersey Championship Tomato Weigh --in seven times and holds the state record for growing the heaviest tomato, which weighed 6.16 pounds (2.79 kg).

Here in New South Wales, Australia, ABC Radio's Central Coast talkback host Scott Levi told listeners about Gordon Graham's long-standing record, and challenged them to grow an even larger tomato.

He intends to have a go himself, by growing one in a pot in his glass-enclosed studio that he calls The Fishbowl, in the busy Erina shopping centre. . We doubt whether the plant will survive in the air-conditioned atmosphere. Perhaps he'll grow it on the roof.

Mr. Consiglio said tomatoes are sometimes called "Love Apples" because of their reputation as an aphrodisiac. Botanical-online.com says "Tomato is considered to be a good aphrodisiac since it has been proved that eating fresh tomato increases the sexual desire." But GlobalGourmet.com says "Whether any truly amorous reaction occurs is purely speculative."
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Eric Shackle

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