It’s Time: Tomato Time in Laurens County

June 25, 2024

With the heat of summer comes a bounty of local harvests, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate one of the season’s most beloved fruits: the homegrown tomato. Laurens County residents are fortunate to have access to a variety of local options for fresh, delicious tomatoes, including LushAcres Market in Clinton, Sanitary Market in Laurens, and many roadside stands scattered throughout the area.

Tomatoes hold a special place in the hearts of many, especially when they are locally grown. The vibrant red fruits (or vegetables, depending on who you ask) are a summer staple, perfect for a wide range of dishes. While some might attempt to grow their own, it’s often best to leave the work of seeding and sowing to the professionals and enjoy the fruits of their labor instead.

Local Options for Fresh Tomatoes

A sample of what is available at Lush Acres Market in Clinton.

At LushAcres Market in Clinton, you’ll find locally grown tomatoes that burst with flavor. Known for their dedication to fresh and high-quality produce, LushAcres provides a fantastic selection that will make any tomato lover’s heart sing. They currently have tomatoes $2.25/lb (Mountain Fresh, San Marzano, Green) $3.00/lb (Purple Star, Cherokee Purple).

Sanitary Market in Laurens is another excellent source for tomatoes. Offering both low country South Carolina tomatoes and those grown right in Laurens County, this market ensures you have access to some of the best tomatoes around.

Additionally, roadside stands throughout Laurens County offer fresh, local tomatoes. These stands are often run by local farmers who take pride in their produce, providing a direct connection from farm to table.

Enjoying the Tomato Season

There is nothing quite like the taste of a ripe, homegrown tomato. The first bite after a long winter and spring without them is a reminder of summer’s simple pleasures. A classic way to enjoy these tomatoes is in a traditional tomato sandwich. This beloved dish is simple yet delicious: two slices of soft white bread, a generous amount of mayonnaise (Duke’s Mayo is a favorite for many), thick slices of firm yet ripe tomatoes, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. It’s best enjoyed over the kitchen sink as the juicy tomatoes tend to drip, making it a messy but delightful summer rite of passage.

Beyond the sandwich, tomatoes can be used in a variety of ways. A fresh tomato salad with a homemade vinaigrette, combining red and balsamic vinegars, local honey, fresh basil, and shallots, makes for a refreshing summer dish. Grilled tomatoes are another tasty option, adding a smoky depth to their natural sweetness. And who could forget the Southern classic: fried green tomatoes, a delicious treat that highlights the versatility of this summer staple.

Tomato Pie and More

Til Culbertson’s Tomato Pie

Add a delightful touch to any summer menu with a tomato pie. Using fresh local tomatoes, a flaky crust, and a bit of creativity, you can craft a dish that’s perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. Whether you opt for a homemade crust or a store-bought one, tomato pie is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Southern cooks swear by waiting for the first ripe summer tomatoes, as their flavor is unparalleled. Duke’s mayo is a staple, and while recipes may vary with different types of cheese, some even incorporate homemade pimento cheese.

“Summer tomatoes and Duke’s mayo are essentials. Cheeses can vary, but the perfect flaky homemade crust is what makes it. I add extra crust to mine to soak up all that goodness,” says Til Culbertson, owner of Sweet on Occasion.

Remember, peeling those tomatoes is a must!

Til Culbertson, who owns Sweet on Occasion and More, bakes her famous tomato pies for the Sanitary Market on the Square in Laurens. The demand often exceeds supply, but you can place a preorder through the Market as long as summer tomatoes are available.

Preserving the Taste of Summer

One of the best things about tomatoes is that their taste can be preserved to enjoy throughout the year. Pan-roasted tomatoes freeze well and can be used in numerous recipes, allowing you to savor the flavor of summer long after the season has ended.

Tomato Tips

To ensure your tomatoes ripen perfectly, store them on your kitchen counter rather than the refrigerator. Turn them blossom side down to speed up the ripening process and store those that are already ripe blossom side up. Remember, the best tomatoes are often not the brightest red; heirloom varieties come in green, yellow, and striped hues. A good sniff test will tell you if they are ready – they should smell wonderfully tomato-ey and feel firm to the touch.

In Laurens County, summer and tomato season go hand in hand. With so many local options for fresh, flavorful tomatoes, now is the time to indulge in this seasonal delight and support our hardworking local farmers.