The “Hottest Tomato,” the “Perfect Pepper,” and “Coolest Cucumber” competitions celebrate Essex County as being home to the largest concentration of greenhouse vegetable production in North America.
|Accepting 'Best Overall' prizes were Fernanda Albuquerque (pepper and cucumber categories), and Tyler Clark of Nature Fresh Farms (tomato). PHOTO COURTESY REACH INTERNATIONAL
In addition to bragging rights gained by the companies with award-winning entries, the Leamington Salvation Army Foodbank receives the proceeds from sales of donated vegetables by local growers/wholesalers.
However, the main winners are dozens of disadvantaged youth in Uganda. REACH uses net contest proceeds to sponsor children in that country to get a better education “and break the cycle of poverty,” notes the organizers.
REACH is a local charity run entirely by volunteers. Some 50 Ugandan students were supported last year.
THIS YEAR'S WINNERS INCLUDE:
• Mastronardi Produce/Sunset: People’s Choice Pepper (‘Sweet Twister’), Best Orange Bell Pepper, People’s Choice Tomato (‘Mini-Kumato’), Best Cluster/TOV Tomato (‘Loomato’), and Best Cocktail Tomato (‘Kumato’).
• Mucci International/Mucci Pac: Best Overall Pepper, Best Green Bell Pepper, Best Red Pepper, Best Overall Cucumber, and Best Mini Seedless Cucumber.
• Nature Fresh Farms: Best Yellow Bell Pepper (‘Crosby’), Best Overall Tomato (Beefsteak), Best Beefsteak Tomato, Best Roma Tomato (‘Red Egg’), and Best Specialty Tomato (‘Sweetest’).
• Orangeline Farms: Best Specialty Sweet Pepper, People’s Choice Mini-Cucumber.
• JemD Farms: Best English Seedless Cucumber, Best Bite-Size Tomato (‘Bitesize Grape’).
• Westmoreland/Topline Produce: Best Specialty Hot Pepper (‘Topline Chilis)
The competition has become one of the highlights of the Leamington Fair. Industry representatives (chefs, retailers, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, among others), handle much of the judging, with fair visitors weighing in with the People’s Choice categories.