How to set up a tomato tasting

Have you ever wanted to do a tomato tasting of your own?

Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) has been holding tomato tastings for ten years. The events have always been popular and we often have guests attending from across the country.

But if you can’t make the trek to Heritage Farm in Northeast Iowa, here's how you can set up a tasting of your own.

Step 1: Get tomatoes

We usually have between 45 and 60 tomatoes for our guests to try. That’s pretty ambitious for the home tester. We recommend that you start with about 10 different varieties.

SSE Tomato Tasting

SSE Tomato Tasting

If you haven’t grown that many varieties, look at Farmer’s Markets in your area or, even better, ask each guest to bring a tomato from their own garden!

Consider the number of guests and the size of each variety when deciding how many of each tomato you need. We like to have at least two of even the largest variety: one to chop up into bite size pieces and one to leave whole so that tasters can get an idea of what the fruit looks like.

Step 2: Decide how you will evaluate the tomatoes

Lab evaluation of tomatoes

Lab evaluation of tomatoes

How elaborate do you want your tasting forms to be? The simplest ballots simply list the names of each variety that will be sampled and tasters circle their favorite or rank their top three favorites.

Ballots can be a lot more complicated than that. When we evaluate tomatoes for flavor in the lab, we rank them on a scale of 1 to 5 for fifteen different qualities, such as sweetness, tartness, appearance, and overall flavor.


Step 3: Set up

You will want plenty of plates, knives, cutting boards, and towels.

Labeled tomatoes

Labeled tomatoes

Shortly before you begin tasting, cut your tomatoes into bite size pieces and put them on a plate next to an identifying name or number. This is important! Once tomatoes are chopped up, they often look the same, so you don’t want to lose track of which is which.

Do whatever you can to make cleanup simple for yourself! Holding the tasting outdoors is one way to cut down on clean-up. Have a bucket nearby for tomato stems and cores.

Step 4: Enjoy!

Sit back, relax, and choose your favorite tomato.