If the tomato you behold is flawlessly formed, even-toned and unblemished, it is probably not a Creole tomato.
The beloved south Louisiana specimens are usually misshapen with mottled skins and lofty coronas at their tops from which ridges that crack open often emanate down their sides. They range in size from medium to huge. They typically “ain’t pretty” but they are so dense and meaty, so rich in aroma and flavor, it is nearly inconceivable that they are related to those pale, mealy, shipped-in specimens found in most supermarkets. At any given time throughout the summer months, any proper kitchen includes a row of them resting upside down in a row on the counter at the ready for a quick, delicious meal or snack.
While vine-ripened Creole tomatoes are only to be found in south Louisiana, a tomato has to
be of no particular cultivar or pedigree to be classified as Creole. The most popular specimens that grow up to become Creole tomatoes are Celebrity, Better Boy, Fantastic, Monte Carlo, Bingo, Big Beer and Sunleaper. South Louisiana’s rich alluvial soil and sweltering climate provide the optimal conditions for producing the region’s flavorful, robust — albeit ugly — rich, red gems. It’s all about the dirt and the humidity.
The French Market Corp. hosted New Orlean s’ 28th annual Creole Tomato Festival on June 7-8 to mark the official opening of the eagerly anticipated Creole tomato season.
Tomatoes were used in creative ways — from savory crêpes to shrimp Creole — during the festival’s inaugural “Best of the Fest” food booth judging contest, coordinated by the Southern Food and Beverage Museum on June 7.
A panel of three judges started off invigorated and withered to overfed exhaustion after tasting 28 dishes from the 16 vendors present at the New Orleans festival. After much debate, the judges bestowed the following awards:
Tastiest Dish (Judges’ Favorite): Crêpes à la Cart — Savory Crêpe With Creole Tomato, Bacon, Basil and Mozzarella.
Most Creative Dish: Rio Mar/Little Gem Saloon — Jumbo Lump Crab Meat and Avocado Salad With Creole Tomatoes and Fried Plantains.
Best Traditional Use of Creole Tomato: Andrea’s Restaurant, Metairie — Creole Tomato Eggplant Parmigiana With Homemade Spaghetti.
Healthiest Dish (a tie): New Orleans Tomato Co. — “Creole” Shrimp Creole; George’s Produce — Beaucoup Salad (Creole Tomatoes With Hass Avocados, Vidalia Onion and Green Vinaigrette).