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Just how big is Utah's new record-breaking tomato?

Published August 26, 2014 11:32 am

Record • It won't win any beauty contests, but monster weighs in at 3.75 pounds.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Let's hope Dale Thurber enjoys bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.

On Monday, the West Valley City farmer officially broke the state record, growing a tomato that weighed 3.75 pounds.

The previous record — also held by Thurber — was 3.4 pounds.

"It's not as big as I was hoping, but it's still a record" said Thurber, after taking the tomato to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food's Weights and Measures office in Salt Lake City for an official weigh-in.

When the tomato was on the vine — inside Thurber's high-tunnel greenhouse — he thought it might reach the 4-pound mark.

The twisted and bumpy-looking fruit is a Michael's Portuguese Monster, a variety where several blossoms will fuse together to make giant tomatoes, said Thurber, who operates a Utah seed and seedling company called Delectation of Tomatoes. He estimates eight to 14 blossoms likely fused to create his record-breaking tomato.

This is the fourth year that Thurber has grown the variety and he worked diligently all summer to try to get it to grow. He created a super- rich organic compost — made with horse and turkey manure, wood ash and sea kelp meal. He packed it around the base of the tomato plant and watered heavily. Two weeks ago, when Thurber went on vacation and stopped watering, the tomato ended its growth run, he said.

While proud of his accomplishment, Thurber has a long way to go to break the world record of 8.41 pounds, which was set last week in Ely, Minn. Dan MacCoy's Big Zac tomato surpassed the 7.75-pound record that had stood for 28 years, Thurber said.

Despite Thurber's success, the cool, rainy weather that has remained over the state for the past few weeks has kept tomatoes in many backyard gardens from ripening as quickly as in past years.

"Tomatoes do best when it's 85 degrees during the day and 55 at night," said Ashley Patterson, executive director of Wasatch Community Gardens.

And those with ripe tomatoes may find that the fruit has a thinner skin and is splitting — another problem caused by the unusual summer weather, she said.

"Use those immediately in a sauce or salsa, otherwise you'll get fruit flies."

Of course, once the temperatures return to normal — which should be later this week — Patterson said gardeners can expect "an explosion" of fruit.

kathys@sltrib.com