Southern Agenda

Tickled Pink

In the rapturous words of Arkansas’s 76th General Assembly Regular Session of 1987, the South Arkansas vine-ripe pink tomato had a “taste, texture, appearance, and aroma second to none”—and therefore deserved designation as both the state fruit and vegetable. In the tomato’s heyday in the fifties and sixties, farmers in Southeast Arkansas were shipping out some 290,000 tons of the sweet, mild gem, bred for its ability to be picked at “first breaker,” or right when the top of the fruit turns pink. “It’s the soil here in Bradley County that makes our tomatoes taste so good,” says JeNelle Lipton, a chairman of the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival, which the town of Warren has hosted since 1956. This year, the festival continues June 14 and 15 with tomato-eating and -packing contests and an all-tomato luncheon, featuring a chicken salad–stuffed tomato and tomato cake. Visitors to Bradley County can also pick up the state ’maters at booths on Warren’s courthouse square throughout June and July.