Greenhouse vegetable competitions return, reveal winners in Essex County
By Greenhouse Canada
By Greenhouse Canada
After cancelling the event last year, R.E.A.CH. International brought back its annual Greenhouse Competitions for 2021 and declared the winners in a virtual announcement last week.
Since their debut in 2007, the competitions have celebrated Ontario’s Essex County as home to the largest greenhouse industry in North America. A Canadian registered child-sponsorship charity completely run by local volunteers, R.E.A.C.H. International uses 100 per cent of the proceeds from the competition to sponsor over 50 children in Uganda, Africa, annually. These sponsorships give children and teens the food, school supplies, medicine, and other essentials needed for education and to break the cycle of poverty.
Competitions are separated by crop, including “The Hottest Tomato,” “The Perfect Pepper,” “The Coolest Cucumber” and the “Sweetest Strawberry,” with more specific categories within each one. The best overall winners in each category were:
- Tomato: Umami bite-sized tomato by Nature Fresh Farms
- Strawberry: Dreamberry by Sunset/Mastronardi Produce
- Pepper: Rustico sweet long pepper by Mucci Farms
- Sunset Mini Seedless cucumber by Sunset/Mastronardi Produce
“Considering the massive crop losses and challenges faced due to the pandemic, greenhouse industry growers and marketers still entered 125 products into the competitions, just 25 less than the last event, held in 2019,” says the organizers in a release. “R.E.A.CH. also collected over 3,000 lbs of produce donations from each contestant to donate locally to the Gleaners and to Local Food Banks.”
This year, the competitions were redesigned to be contactless, to protect the contestants, volunteers and judges.
Produce was delivered to Kingsville Community Centre to be numbered and sorted by volunteers, then delivered to 30 judges across Essex County. Judges included members of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), grocery store produce managers, Culinary Guild of Windsor Chefs, and others. Once judges received their package of produce, they evaluated and entered scores into a secured online database. Entries were judged according to a specialized list of criteria developed by head judge, and former OMAFRA greenhouse vegetable specialist, Shalin Khosla.
The awards ceremony was broadcasted as a live stream on Friday, June 11. To watch the recording of the award ceremony visit greenhousecompetitions.com.
According to organizers, this year’s event will sponsor another 50 children and teens to attend school, meet medical, clothing or housing needs in Uganda, Africa, the third poorest nation in the world. “And with the additional donations, as every year, R.E.A.CH. was able to continue to partner with and support the efforts of local charities who help our community.”
2021 Winners of the Greenhouse Competitions:
Coolest Cucumber competition
- Cocktail Cukes : One Sweet Cucumber by Sunset Mastronardi Produce
- English Cucumber: Mucci English Cuke by Mucci Farms
- Mini Seedless Cukes: Sunset Mini Seedless by Sunset Mastronardi Produce
- BEST OVERALL CUCUMBER: Sunset Mini Seedless by Sunset Mastronardi Produce
Hottest Tomato Competition
- Beefsteak Tomato: Pure Flavor Beef by Pure Flavor, Pure Hothouse Foods
- Bite-Size Tomato: Umami by Nature Fresh Farms
- Cocktail Tomato: Campari by Sunset Mastronardi Produce
- Roma Tomato: Mucci Roma by Mucci Farms
- Specialty Tomato : Orange Cherry by Nature Fresh Farms
- T.O.V./Cluster Tomato: Nature Fresh TOV by Nature Fresh Farms
- BEST OVERALL TOMATO: Umami by Nature Fresh Farms
Perfect Pepper Competition
- Hot Peppers: Yowzers by Sunset Mastronardi Produce
- Orange Bell (sweet) Pepper: Sunset Orange Bell by Sunset Mastronardi Produce
- Red Bell (sweet) Pepper: Red Bell Sweet by DelFrescoPure
- Specialty Bell (sweet) Pepper: Aloha by Sunset Mastronardi Produce
- Specialty Long (sweet) Pepper: Rustico by Mucci Farms
- Specialty Mini Pepper: Sweet To The Point by Mucci Farms
- Yellow Bell (sweet) Pepper: Pure Flavor Yellow Bell by Pure Flavor, Pure Hothouse Foods
- BEST OVERALL PEPPER: Rustico by Mucci Farms
Sweetest Strawberry Competition
- BEST OVERALL STRAWBERRY Dreamberry by Sunset Mastronardi Produce
For the complete list of winners including second and third places, visit greenhousecompetitions.com.
“Every year this event draws a lot of local attention with the grower base,” shared Director of Sales, Matt Quiring of Nature Fresh Farms, which also sponsored the event. “This year’s event presented us with a clean sweep on the Bite-Sized Tomato Category taking home 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in one of the most highly sought-after tomato categories. In addition to that, we walked away with the Best Cluster, Best Specialty Tomato and Best Overall Tomato for the 2nd consecutive year the contest has ran. It is always great validation to see that our growing processes and seed selection strategies are paying off.”
“With this year being our first year entering into the strawberry segment, we are excited to have also received 2nd place overall proving that we will be a force to contend with in the future!” Quiring adds.
Sources: R.E.A.C.H. International; Nature Fresh Farms
To become involved in this charity, visit reachint.org.
This article was updated June 15 with additional comments from winners.