The sight of folks meandering through the French Quarter on June 11 sipping fresh-squeezed lemonade and flapping bright red tomato-shaped fans will signal the arrival of the 25th annual French Market Creole Tomato Festival in New Orleans. When you reach the festival venue, you’ll find revelers dancing to live music and wiping the juice of southeast Louisiana’s homegrown fruit from their lips.
So just what is the object of this culinary and musical homage? The term "Creole tomato" is basically a marketing idea, not a botanical name, says horticulturalist Dan Gill at the Louisiana State University AgriCenter. “Because these tomatoes are grown locally, they can be allowed to become fairly ripe on the vine before they are harvested and brought into the city. The thing that makes Creole tomatoes so favorable is the vine-ripened flavor.”
Vendors at the Tomato Fest on June 11-12 will serve up Creoles mixed with other varietals, while chefs from some of the area’s most popular restaurants give cooking demonstrations and free bites of their tomato-infused creations. Festival-goers can even buy a box of Creole tomatoes—or get one free for shopping in the French Market. But if you can't make it to the Big Easy next month, here's a little taste of New Orleans you can make at home.
(Note on recipes: For those who can’t get authentic Creole tomatoes directly from Louisiana, Dan Gill suggests substituting locally grown red tomatoes of similar size.)
— By Sonya Stinson