South Carolina Tomatoes: My Summer Salad Hero

Nothing offends me like an unripe tomato. And I'm not referring to a green tomato, which can be transformed into a delicious, fried delight. The tomatoes that get me all worked up are pink, hard and usually served alongside an otherwise decent salad or burger. These pink travesties are particularly offensive in South Carolina in the summer. We grow tomatoes here like nobody's business, and there's no excuse for a bad one.

Nothing is better than a ripe South Carolina tomato in the summer, in a salad, on a BLT or simply sliced and sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. And you don't even have to live way out in the country to grow them, because they don't need a lot of space.

One of my favorite summer events is the Palmetto Tasty Tomato Festival, where home growers come together to celebrate the almighty tomato, and judges decide who has produced the most perfect specimen. Spoiler alert: They're all good. I was a judge one year and making a decision was a pleasure, because it meant tasting each sample, again and again. And I learned something. I adore black and purple tomatoes, which taste a little salty to me, perfect in a salad with avocado and fresh mozzarella.

The Tasty Tomato Festival also includes an inspiring array of tomato potluck dishes, from mainstays like tomato pie to modern choices like tomato ice cream. Collard greens hold the honor of being named our state vegetable, but I would argue in favor of the tomato. Nothing against collard greens, which I love, but almost anyone can grow a tomato and they're more versatile. Thank goodness they at least get their own festival.

What summer produce do you love the most? Are you a home grower or do you rely on farmers?

(Images: Anne Postic)