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At a Tomato Tasting, Notes of Pond and Paint

Ms. Noble, professor emerita at the University of California, Davis, said the rules were simple. Close your eyes. Don’t talk. Turn off the background music. Smell before you taste. Each tester was given a comment sheet that included suggestions from Ms. Noble for tasting notes, like melon, apple, cinnamon, coffee and pumpkin. “With the first one you’re likely to say, ‘Oh God, it smells like a tomato — how will I kill the next half hour?’ ” she said. “But that’s O.K. It takes time. And just think — you might come up with the perfect word no one has ever used to describe that note.”

With that, she set the tasters free.

During the summer, my diet primarily consists of fresh tomatoes and mozarella (and strawberries) -- so I was thrilled to get to attend a tomato tasting in Capay valley and report on it for The New York Times.