Nothing says summer like biting into a plump, juicy, sun kissed tomato. At least that's how it looked today at City Hall Plaza as several bystanders reached under ribbon partitions that separated them from hundreds of Massachusetts' top tier tomatoes.


The tempting fruits were there for the city's 28th Annual Tomato Festival and Contest.


The event kicked off Massachusetts Farmers' Market Week, which runs until Saturday.


Before the judging began at 12:30 p.m., Marie Hills, of Kymball Fruit Farms in Pepperell, said she has seen first hand the love Boston has for its farmers' markets.


"Taste is a huge part of it. People come out of their way to come to the farmers' market. Why would you come unless you know you are going to get fresh quality - it may not be the cheapest - but it is certainly the freshest quality," she said. "Most of the stuff we bring down is picked that morning. You can't get it any fresher... Look at the growth in the farmers' market in Boston. It's been huge."


The contest boasted hundreds of red, yellow and green tomatoes of all shapes and sizes. As eager farmers' market visitors passed by, helping themselves to slices, it was clear that Boston has a taste for freshness.

Later, Kymball Fruit Farms took home two first place prizes for its tomatoes
today - one in the "best slicing tomato" category, and another in the
"weight" category.

Prizes were also given for "best cherry tomatoes" and "best heirloom tomatoes."

The victory is nothing new for Hills, whose farm offers produce for 13 farmers' markets throughout the Boston-area.

"We have won and placed every year except for maybe one. We do pretty
well, which is exciting for us, because we do a lot of work and its a
nice way to get a pat on the back," she said, adding that her farm has in the past started growing certain produce at the request of farmers' market customers.

"We'll start growing something, and it takes off. So our customers help teach us, we help teach them. We need each other," she said. "If it wasn't for farmer's markets, our farm, which is 140 acres of cultivated land, could have been houses," she said.

Today's contest was set to the backdrop of City Hall Plaza's popular Farmers' Market along Cambridge Street, where Westport Farmer Doris Mills sells her peaches.

"We grow (our produce), and we bring it in fresh. Customers really like that. They love our peaches," said Mills, who grows at Noquochoke Orchards near the Westport River. "They're very juicy, they're soft. They're not dry and hard like you'd see at the store. People in the city really appreciate the freshness."

Mayor Thomas M. Menino said today that city officials intend to keep pushing a progressive farmers' markets agenda

"Farmers' markets also contribute to the economy. I travel around our city all the time, and I see many farmers markets that are packed with people, generating lots of sales for vendors," Menino said. "And those same people tend to hang out in the neighborhood and visit the local shops in the Main Street District. So farmers markets are a win-win enterprise."