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For Immediate Release - August 4, 2003
Tasting Tennessee's State Fruit    
Photo: TN 4-H alumni preparing snacks.
  Lauderdale County 4-H alumni making garlic creamies at the Tomato Tasting.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Long before the 11 a.m. start of the annual Tomato Tasting event on July 11, guests waited patiently outside the First Baptist Church in Lauderdale County. The Tomato Tasting is part of the Tomato Festival which was established in 1984 as a tribute to the Lauderdale County tomato growers and their famous produce.

Since the first Tomato Festival 20 years ago, the event has grown tremendously. In 1994, the Tomato Tasting was added and is now a favorite for guests who came to Ripley from as far as Australia. This year's Tomato Tasting hosted more than 300 people.

The Tomato Tasting was sponsored by the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service and the Family and Community Education Council of Lauderdale County. The event included a table decorating competition, taster’s choice awards and tastings from the Lauderdale County Recipes featuring Ripley Tomatoes cookbooks. On-site cooking demonstrations could not be done this
year due to the large crowds, so the garlic creamies and fried green tomatoes were prepared in the church kitchen.

Since 1998, Lauderdale County 4-H’ers have assisted during the event. This year, they did everything from replenishing tables to creating innovative ways to make the dishes.

"Wow! It was excellent - highly successful," said Jane H. Connell, UT Extension agent, who has helped with the event for ten years. “We feel good that we had so many people visit our town and county and were glad to promote the new state fruit, tomatoes.

The Tennessee House of Representatives declared tomatoes the state fruit in March. Tomatoes are Tennessee’s No. 1 fruit crop, with Ripley tomatoes being distributed as far as Michigan, Texas, Florida and Indiana. In East Tennessee, Grainger County tomatoes are in demand year round.

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Contact: Jane Connell 731-635-9551; Patricia McDaniels or Samantha Hill

Institute of Agriculture Experiment Station Extension College of ASNR College of Veterinary Medicine