One Saturday night, I saw a friend’s post of being at the Grainger County Tomato Festival. Grainger County tomato is our family’s favorite that we are looking forward to it each year when summer begins. We didn’t want to miss this special festival so I quickly searched to learn it went on the next day, Sunday afternoon until 5:00. My daughter had a soccer game at 12:00 on Sunday, but we were determined to make it.
The game was ended around 2:00, we had a quick bite of lunch, got into the car again, headed to Grainger County. Driving about an hour, mostly in winding country road, among lush green fields in between hills, we managed to catch the ending of this weekend festival arriving there around 4:00. We did not pay much attention to other things, all we want is Grainger County tomatoes!
We bought a whole box of it.
It is a long journey to find Grainger County tomatoes. They have the best taste we can find, beating even most of the ones from the local farmer’s market.
For many years, we ate tomato bought from the supermarket here. Depressingly, they don’t have the tomato taste we grew up with. It’s red, but a kind of faded red, not a color to appeal to your appetite. It’s hard and tasted nothing but a faint sourness that remotely reminds you of the distanced memory of what a ripen, juicy tomato tasted like. A Chinese saying can be used to describe this experience: 味同嚼蜡 – taste like chewing on wax.
A result of Industrially-Grown Tomatoes.
To be able to endure the long distance shipments, the tomatoes are picked early in the fields, green and hard, not ripen yet. Once shipped to the destination, they are sprayed with ethylene, to turn tomatoes red. Ethylene is a chemical emitted naturally by the plants in the fields when they want to ripen their fruits. Now, we, the people, ripen them at our convenience, most likely in dull, lifeless industrial buildings, not at the field where the Sun is bright, the air is fresh and life is vibrant. Of course, to do that, we pay a price: compromised taste, big time!
When I started to find the local Farmer’s markets many years ago, I have been happy to be the loyal customer. I would say about 80% of my loyalty is a tribute to tomato. The locally grown tomatoes have much better taste than the ones you get from supermarket, period.
Then, we met Grainger County tomatoes.
The natural bright red color is tempting your appetite. Mixed it in your salad bowl, it adds such a vivid color to your greens that you feel like looking at a famous drawing, by nature. Bite into it, the juice bursts into your mouth in such a fast speed that it startles your tongue. Then, your tongue can’t stop happily chasing them around. At that moment, you taste the sweet, freshness of a natural tomato, like it supposes to be!
We treasure this Tennessee jewel by having it on our dinner table often in the summertime, wondering how I missed it for years!
One dish I make from it is this simple “Sugar Sprinkled Tomato”. My kids don’t care much about it, but both my husband and I love to have it. It was our childhood treat in the hot summer.
You cut the naturally ripen tomato into chunks, sprinkle granulated sugar on them. You let it sit for a while, so the sugar will bring the tomato juice out. When we were little kids in China, we didn’t have a fridge. To make this treat cold, our parents usually floated the bowl with tomato chunks into tap water for a while. Of course, this wouldn’t have the same effect of a fridge but we were very happy to enjoy it, chewing on the bright red, soft, juicy chunks first, drinking the sweet with a hint of tart juice next. That was our taste of Summer, straightly reaching down to our heart, a moment of joy.
Sometimes, happiness is this kind of trivial things that you remember forever.
This whole box of Grainger County tomatoes was really worth the round trip of almost 2 hours.