You can bet you will hear Tennessean's boast "I grew the best tomatoes this year", hundreds of times in the middle of the tomato season.
If fact, locals love Tomatoes so much that there's even an annual festival, the Tomato Art Fest, held in the early days of August, just to honor this luscious ripe red fruit.
Our state does come by this passion for homegrown tomatoes naturally, you see tomatoes are Tennessee's No. 1 fruit crops. Yep that's right I said fruit crop. The tomato is a fruit of the vine that contains seeds, this is a botanical fact.
Tomato History - In the late 1800's, the US Supreme Court decided tomatoes were a vegetable, this happened when the court had to decide whether tomatoes should be taxed as a vegetable under the 1883 Tariff Act and ruled that they could, deciding: "Botanically speaking tomatoes are the fruit of the vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans and peas. But in the common language of the people, all these are vegetables, which are grown in kitchen gardens and are usually served at dinner in, with or after the soup, fish or meats and not, like fruits generally, as dessert". So there you have it,our great ancestors turned a fruit into a vegetable.
Over a century later, in the early 2000's, the Tennessee legislature declared tomatoes Tennessee's official state fruit. Fruit or vegetable? And so the argument still remains. Hmmm, well I guess that it's really only a debatable subject if you live in the state of Tennessee. But in Tennessee, the tomato's fruit or vegetable debate takes a distant second place to the daily debate on who has grown the better tomato.
Tennessee Tomato Traditions - Tennesseans are proud of their tomatoes and honor them each year during its growing season, which occurs each year from Mid-June till Mid-October. We Tennesseans laugh profusely in the grocery store when we pass by their display of pitiful tomatoes and silently snicker at any poor soul that happens to have one of those store bought tomatoes in their cart. We take and give our harvested tomatoes to anyone, and any place that will have them, of course you will hear our never ending boast and remember that the Tennessee custom is: Before anyone takes one of these prize homegrown tomatoes they must give at least one compliment to its grower, otherwise they will be denied and sent to the nearest grocery to purchase a store bought tomato.
The tomatoes will keep rolling in for weeks and weeks on end. So, what to do with all of this homegrown goodness?...
Well in Tennessee, we cook em,can em, dry em, freeze em, fry em and most of all we eat em and we eat a lot of them. Ah yes we Tennesseans eat tomatoes in our own special way, too.
Some of our favorite ways to eat a Freshly Sliced Homegrown Tennessee Tomatoes are:
- Eat them ripe and right off the vine with just an added touch of salt.
- Make a tomato sandwich w/ fresh tomatoes, fresh Sunbeam white bread a touch of mayo and a dash of salt and pepper.
- Serve fresh sliced tomatoes at dinnertime w/some fresh hot cornbread and a couple of green onions.
If that's not enough Tennessee Tomato Talk for you...go to page 2 where you can learn a wonderful Home Grown Tomato Song written by one of Nashville's finest songwriters, Guy Clark