Tomatoes may just be the signal of summer for some localvores. No matter the growing season schedule, it’s not quite summer until the first tomato has adorned farmers’ market tables, sliced, stewed, or canned. And while the season was indeed a bit delayed, an abundance of tomatoes is right around the corner,  and now is the time to plan. With some foresight and inspiration, you’ll enjoy tomatoes throughout the summer and into the winter. The intense flavor of heirloom varieties found locally remind us all that local food just tastes better, and can be found no where else but here at home, within 100 miles of Chattanooga.

Photo courtesy of Seth Shaffer, Red Clay Farm tomatoes

What to do with all these beautiful tomatoes from local farms? Pick up recipe cards from farmers themselves, showcasing easy ways to enjoy their fresh tomatoes.  With long days of work put in, farmers usually have quick and easy recipes to eat their produce simply and enjoy it fully (find your farmers market here).  From Lowe’s Family Farm’s tomato jam to Brainerd Farmers Market’s Gazpacho, there are over 30 tomato inspired recipes for you to collect, along with recipe boxes and seasonal tabs for your collecting enjoyment. Take that inspiration and enter your own locally crafted recipe in our contest, for a chance to win a Farmers Market gift certificate:

Glean ideas from our Recipe Contest, and don’t forget to vote (or even enter a recipe)!

Canning is another great way to plan for the winter and use up that pile of tomatoes. Check out classes going on, and soon you’ll be apt to canning not only tomatoes, but anything in sight – cucumbers, carrots, okra, as well as prepared foods like tomato sauce and salsas. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for up to date events!

Don’t forget all the events going on to celebrate local food and to help others. Mia Cucina and Dish T’ Pass will have their monthly cooking classes highlighting seasonal produce. Various farmers markets around Chattanooga are planning to celebrate tomatoes, such as Signal Mountain Farmers Market's Tomato Cooking Demonstration on July  18, Signal Mountain FM's Tomato Pie Contest on July 25, or The Chattanooga Market's Tomato Festival. Want to use your passion for local food to help others in need? Visit the Chattanooga Area Food Bank’s website for locations on their Farm to Family program. At participating farmers markets, the Food Bank has baskets available for folks to donate local food to families in need of healthy food. What an easy and effective way to be a part of making local food available to everyone!

So enjoy this July with fresh, delicious tomatoes, and know that in Chattanooga, tomatoes are “Right Here, Right Now".

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