Locals encouraged to take part in tomato festival

South west Sydney residents have the opportunity to enter their home-grown plants in the 2014 Tomato Festival's Best in Show competition.

The festival will be held at the Royal Botanic Gardens on February 1 and 2.

Written entries for the competition close on Thursday,January 30, and the tomatoes will need to be delivered on the Sunday between 10am and noon.

Winners will be announced that afternoon.

Brett Summerell, Royal Botanic Gardens director, said there would be more than 20 different tomato varieties on show.

‘‘Even if you don’t grow your own tomatoes, this tomato fiesta will have something for everyone,’’ he said.

‘‘A highlight will include the Tomato Taste Test which is free for everyone.

‘‘People can put their palates to the test. It’ll be interesting to discover how store-bought tomato varieties stack up against tough competition from the heirloom varieties.

Heirloom varieties have not been cross-bred or mass produced.

‘‘It’s important to preserve plant diversity,’’ Mr Summerell said.

‘‘Because heirlooms are not hybridised, gardeners can collect their own seed from them each year, which allows you to control your own seed source. 

‘‘Once an heirloom variety is lost, it cannot be recreated and biodiversity decreases.

‘‘The concept aligns really well with the objectives of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust: to encourage people to learn more about plant conservation and biodiversity and play a part themselves.  Growing your own tomatoes, believe it or not, is one way you can do that,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s important to preserve plant diversity, because heirlooms are not hybridised, gardeners can collect their own seed from them each year, which allows you to control your own seed source.’’

Details: rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au.

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