It seem that all we do in New Orleans is eat, and listen to music, and go to festivals to eat and listen to music. So what’s wrong with that? This weekend’s Annual Creole Tomato Festival, together with the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival, at the French Market combines two of our favorite things-cajun/zydeco music and the aphrodisiac Creole tomato.
The Louisiana state legislature designated the Creole tomato the official vegetable plant of Louisiana in 2003. (Okay, we know it’s technically a fruit, but that’s irrelevant for this discussion. We honor the Creole tomato, no matter what its horticultural designation). We locals look forward to their arrival the way folks in the Midwest do to the first sweet corn. The Creole tomato usually means any tomato grown in southeast Louisiana, typically in St. Bernard and Placquemines Parish in that famous alluvial river soil. They’re “open-pollinated,” and they have a crown at the root! There’s no specific breed as such, although they were originally developed by LSU. (Some sources say it was developed in the West Indies, but who knows?) It just has to do with the soil, and the sultry Louisiana humidity. You can grow your own—if you’re in the right place, with the right soil and climate—from varieties like Celebrity, Better Boy, Fantastic, Monte Carlo, Bingo, Big Beer, and Sunleaper. Slap a slice or two on some white bread, add bacon and mayonnaise, and you’re in summer mode for real.
The Annual Creole Tomato Festival celebrates all things tomato-y, with cooking demonstrations and samples available of the star of the show—and many different tomato dishes offered by local restaurants. At the same time, some of the southwestern Louisiana’s favorite zydeco and Cajun musicians will be doing their thing at the French Market and Old U.S. Mint, making it a perfect summer twofer destination. The music festival takes place on two stages, including at the nearby Old U.S. Mint, with two days’ worth of music and dancing. There’s a crafts fair as well.
And yes, you can see youngsters dressed as large tomatoes strolling the French Market and handing out tomato-shaped fans. It’s a quirky little festival, but that’s what we do best here.