Author: Kat Robinson, Tie Dye Travels
Summer is hot in Arkansas. It's also when garden bounties appear at roadside stands, and when our favorite fruits and vegetables are featured in local festivals.
This weekend is the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival
in Warren, celebrating the state's fruit and vegetable. Technically, tomatoes are a fruit, but they're generally in the savory category, which is about the only reason why I believe our legislature made the choice to cover both bases with that declaration years ago. Over the course of the weekend, there will be a tomato feast where every item includes tomatoes, a downtown street festival, a steak cookoff, pageants, and a whole lot of tomatoes.
At one point back in the 1980s, there were around 80 different tomato farms in the county. The soil in this area is rich like in the Delta, with ancient marine deposits thanks to its location at the top end of the West Gulf Coastal Plain. Several large grocery and retail chains stocked their shelves with the slightly translucent globes. But over time, many of those operations sought out cheaper varietals grown elsewhere, and tomato farming dwindled. Today there are less than a dozen operators left.
That's a shame, because while you can grow the seeds many places, it's the combination of Bradley County Pinks seeds, clean water, good soil and great sun that brings these supple, juicy tomatoes to their perfect ripeness.
I like to double up on that tomato goodness by pairing it with Petit Jean Meats' pastrami. Bacon is good, but there's something about that peppery, meaty bite from a solidly beefy, thicker cut pastrami made right here in Arkansas that's just meant to be paired with Pinks. I even add another Arkansas favorite for a splendid bite - green tomato relish, also known as green tomato pickle. It adds a crunch to every bite.
You can simply enjoy your pastrami and Bradley County Pink tomatoes on your favorite sliced bread, but if you want to get fancy and make your own green tomato mayo, try this:
2 medium egg yolks
2 teaspoons reserved brine from a jar of green tomato pickles
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped green tomato pickle
Blend together egg yolks, brine and salt. With a hand blender, beat ingredients together. Slowly add vegetable oil and continue to blend for 6-8 minutes, or until the solution reaches mayonnaise thickness. Fold in green tomato pickle and refrigerate for one hour.
For each sandwich:
2 slices of your favorite bread (some folks use rye, but good old fashioned southern white bread is excellent, too)
3 slices Petit Jean Meats sliced pastrami
3-4 slices Bradley County Pink tomato
1 tablespoon green tomato mayo OR 1 tablespoon chopped green tomato pickle
Assemble and enjoy a taste of Arkansas summer!