Tomato Festival Time

Heroes, In Season, Local Heroes, Summer
on June 1, 2007

“Would you like to see how I batter these tomatoes?” a lady gently asked as a crowd forms around her at the Slocomb Tomato Festival in Slocomb, Ala. “Our recipe has 5 cups of milk, 4 eggs and 3½ cups flour.”

As I watched her mix the ingredients together, I asked, “You don’t add a little salt or pepper?” She looked at me kindly and said, “People can salt and pepper as they wish.” This batter was to make the most delicious fried green tomatoes I’d ever eaten. Slocomb Tomato Festival goers often wait in long lines to get their very own basket of fried green tomatoes, which many consider a Southern delicacy. Some might say these “good ole ’maters,” which are freshly prepared by local seniors, are the unofficial main attraction.

This festival has taken place on the third Saturday in June each year since 1989. To ensure that everyone’s entertained, the tomato celebration features carnival rides and a local rhythm and blues band. And don’t forget the court of tomato queens, who ride into the fairgrounds atop convertibles, waving to the crowd. In fact, many of the nearby communities choose a young girl to send to the festival as their own tomato queen.

Slocomb tomatoes are known for their sweet, subtle taste and lack of acidity. One festival attendee boasted that when you cut into a Slocomb tomato, you’ll always find a vibrant red throughout—no white splotches or discolorations. While local farmers grow several tomato plant varieties, which change from year to year, one thing remains constant: the rich soil, partially composed of sand and clay, is perfect for tomato growing.

Peggy Collins of the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel said it best: “I’ve given up eating fresh tomatoes unless I can get the ones grown in the Slocomb area—they still grow ‘real’ tomatoes, and they are the best!”

By Susan Stone, a food writer and registered dietitian in Birmintham, Ala.