There’s an ongoing debate about the Slocomb tomato. Is it something in the soil or is it when they are picked that makes tomatoes grown in this little patch of southeast Alabama the “world’s best”? Like the Vidalia onion, the reputation of the Slocomb tomato has been developed and protected by the dozen or so farmers committed to maintaining the quality that is associated with the name.
And make no mistake, Slocomb tomatoes might just be the world’s best. Tomato connoisseurs eagerly await the season each year: Many attend the annual Slocomb Tomato Festival, the community’s tribute to the crop that has put it on the map.
Held in the town’s Centennial Park each June, the festival has grown over its 31 years to a two-day event that features music, vendors, a children’s play area, good food and, of course, the Slocomb tomato.
Slocomb High School’s Band Boosters have cornered the market on what is perhaps the two festival favorites – fried green tomatoes and an old-fashioned tomato sandwich. Janet Hovey, one of the festival coordinators, approached the band group a few years ago when she realized none of the other food vendors would be offering these delicacies.
“You can’t have a tomato festival without fried green tomatoes,” she said. “I talked to the band boosters and they agreed to have a booth. It is the most popular booth in the festival now.”
Band Boosters president Stephen Smith said not only is it their largest fundraiser, it is their only fundraiser. “Of course, we use only Slocomb tomatoes and we only have the two menu items, so we’ve gotten really good at making both,” he said with a laugh. “We do a great business.”
What makes the best tomato sandwich? “You use only the freshest, softest white bread, just the right amount of mayo, only ripe Slocomb tomatoes and, if desired, a dusting of salt and pepper,” Hovey said. “Makes my mouth water just talking about it.”
Festivalgoers in June were treated to a music lineup that included performances by Chad Street, the Goat Hill String Band, Restless Heart and the Lacs.
Local businesses do their part each year by donating money to bring in top performers and keep the festival growing. Volunteers from the Alabama Power Foundation manned the ticket booths and a donation from the Foundation allowed the Kids Zone to be free of charge.
If you missed out on this year’s summer crop of Slocomb tomatoes, don’t despair. The farmers are busy planting their fall crop – which is just as tasty as summer’s. And if you missed the festival this year, plans are already being made for next year’s event.