arts

Salsa contest spices up farmers' market



Vibrant colors of red and green tomato-based concoctions lined groups of tables while participants danced to salsa music and gathered to taste salsa prepared for their taste buds.

The Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market debuted its 27th annual salsa contest Saturday. Market attendees came to try salsas and participate in salsa dancing. Salsas were judged in categories of raw, cooked and specialty.

Dancing was an added activity in the same vicinity as the contest.

Marcia Veldman, farmers’ market coordinator and food activist, was the contest’s host. While making sure her staff was in place, she said she hoped to promote a healthy style of food.

“We like to hold events at the market that promote the fresh ingredients available in the market,” Veldman said. “August is all about tomatoes, and so it’s a great time to feature creative ways people can use tomatoes.”

She said hundreds of people come to the salsa contest at the market.

“Salsa, I would say, has become very popular in the last 10 to 15 years,” Veldman said. “And interest in food has become a very big thing. People like to see and taste all the different preparations of salsa and learn for themselves how to make better salsa.”

Veldman said what makes the salsa contest special is that it brings the 
community together.

For each of the three salsa categories, there are three judges.

Judges gathered around tables filled with boxes of salsa to test each recipe with tortilla chips.

Kayte Young, a fifth-year judge, said appearance, aroma, texture and flavor are taken into account during the judging process.

The winners receive a basket of local items, and the first prize winner in each category receives an Indiana hardwood cabinet, Young said. Bloomingfoods and the farmers’ market collect these prizes, she said.

“We were just discussing, flavor really wins out,” Young said. “Maybe they didn’t have the perfect texture, maybe they didn’t chop everything consistently, maybe it’s a little watery. If it has good flavor, it has to be chosen.”

Young, a nutrition educator, has also been a competitor before.

“It’s more tense and exciting when you’re competing because you’re wondering if your salsa will be chosen or not,” she said. “But I really enjoy getting the chance to taste all the different varieties of salsa and thinking about what makes a great salsa.”

In the midst of her judging, Young said she decided she wanted to participate in the contest with her own salsa.

“I took a year off (from judging) because I really enjoy it,” Young said. “It’s a really fun contest.”

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