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Ripley Tomato Festival
July 4, 2007
By Jennifer Chandler

Tasty tomatoes defy crop-busting freeze

By Jennifer Chandler
Special to the Commercial Appeal

July 4, 2007

Despite the Spring frost that destroyed most local crops, tomatoes have persevered.

The season of juicy, red, ripe tomatoes officially kicks off this weekend at the 24th Annual Lauderdale County Tomato Festival.

For two days, the town of Ripley celebrates its signature vegetable with tomato tastings, carnival rides, live music, and even a baby-crawling contest.

With 24 growers of tomatoes in Lauderdale County, Ripley tomatoes are probably the most well known -- and most popular -- tomatoes in the Eastern United States.

"According to local farmers, our tomatoes taste so good because of the acidity in the soil," says Lisa Hankins, Lauderdale Chamber executive director and festival co-chairman.

On Friday, tomato lovers will be able to try some of the county's best tomato recipes (everything from green tomato pie to tomato preserves) at the FCE Club's tomato tasting event. On Saturday, stop by to try a smorgasbord of tomato salads at the Saturday Salad event or witness the creation of the world's largest "Mater" Sandwich.

For more information, visit lctn.com/tomato-festival or call (731) 635-9541.

Even if you can't make the hour drive north this weekend, Ripley tomatoes should be available at your local market until the season ends in September.

Three for $30

Encore Restaurant and Bar, 150 Peabody Place, will offer a pre-event menu beginning Friday. Guaranteed to get event attendees out in time to make the opening curtain, first game pitch or tip-off, the menu will feature three offerings each of a starter, entree and dessert for $30 (plus tax and gratuity).

Reservations are recommended, and may be made by calling 528-1415.

Farmers Market recipes

To celebrate the popularity and success of the Downtown Memphis Farmers Market, organizers are compiling a "Memphis Farmers Market" cookbook. The cookbook, which will be released when the market opens for the 2008 season, will feature delicious, healthy, and fresh recipes that highlight ingredients available at the Downtown Memphis Farmers Market.

Cooks may submit recipes from now until the end of October, but anyone who submits a recipe before July 15 will be entered in a gift basket drawing. Visit memphisfarmersmarket.com for more information.

Krystal's Milk Quake

Boy, it's hot out there! To cool you off, Krystal's is offering a coupon for a free MilkQuake (their new real ice cream shake).

Go to krystal.com/milkquake-june/coupon.php to download your coupon.

We all scream

Starting Saturday, Stephen Hassinger, executive chef at The Inn at Hunt Phelan, and his wife, Katherine Hall, will be selling homemade ice cream each week at the Downtown Memphis Farmers Market. This week they'll be featuring honey vanilla.

"We'll always have vanilla," says Hassinger, "but starting next week we will also feature a special market flavor made from what's in season at that the market."

The cost is $4 for a 12-ounce container meant to serve one or two people.

One last bite

Thanks to the United Methodist Women's Group for sharing this recipe for one of the salads they will be making at the Saturday Salads luncheon at the tomato festival in Ripley.

Please share your fabulous food finds and restaurant news with me at jennifer@cookwithjennifer.com.

Tennessee Cornbread Salad

1 (6 oz.) pkg. white cornbread mix, prepared as directed

3 cups chopped, unpeeled Ripley tomatoes

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped sweet pickle (reserve juice)

12 strips cooked bacon, crisp and crumbled

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup pickle juice

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Crumble half the cornbread into the bottom of a large serving dish. In another bowl, combine tomatoes, green bell peppers, onion, pickles and half of the bacon. Spoon half of this mixture over the cornbread. Mix together mayo, pickle juice, and salt and spread half of it over the vegetables. Repeat layers. Garnish with the rest of the crumbled bacon and shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serves 6.

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