My Indiana Food Memory: The Homegrown Indiana Tomato

By Ryan Puckett | August 1, 2013

“There’s nothing like a homegrown Indiana tomato.” At least that’s what my dad has been telling me since I was a kid.

Growing up, I didn’t like tomatoes. While Jimmy Buffet ordered his paradise-inspired cheeseburgers with lettuce, tomato, Heinz 57 and a bunch of other stuff, I ordered mine plain. I avoided anything resembling a salad. But as entered adulthood, my taste buds matured and I began to pay attention to where my food was from and how it was grown.

I don’t think I really embraced the tomato until I met my wife and visited her family in Long Island. When she and I married, one of our friends jokingly explained, “You have just married into a culture of good food.”

You see, they are Italians and the tomato is as critical to the Italian culinary existence as pasta. How critical? Even on Thanksgiving, we have mozzarella caprese as an appetizer. Pairing the fruity vegetable with fresh, milky mozzarella has become one of life’s simple pleasures.

I feel like the tomato nicely represents of the union of my Indiana upbringing and my wife’s Italian heritage.

The fact is Indiana is one of the top-producing states for tomatoes, mostly for processing as canned tomatoes, sauce and paste. But if you’ve been to a farmers market lately, you know that tomatoes are everywhere and in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors. I’ve got several cherry tomato varieties growing around my yard as I’ve done the past several years. As summer winds down, tomatoes are ready for primetime and bursting with juicy sweetness.

At this year’s Dig IN on August 25, tomatoes will be featured in the mini Wagyu burgers with spicy tomato jam and blue cheese mousse by Chef Aaron Butts of Joseph Decuis. You’ll also find tomatoes in Tyler Herald’s (of Napolese) focaccia caprese sandwiches and The Local’s Craig Baker will prepare pork torchon with pickled vegetables, “Bloody Mary” and micro herbs.

Dig IN puts the tastes of Indiana, including the mighty tomato, on full display and offers a feast for the senses. Since the first Dig IN in 2010, the intent of the festival has been to celebrate the people who grow, raise, harvest and produce our food. They do it with love, proving that if there’s a heart in the heartland, Indiana is it.

Dig IN invites local farmers, chefs, brewers, vintners and food enthusiasts around the table to honor our state’s rich agricultural heritage and celebrate the farm-to-fork experience. The fourth annual festival will feature tastings of Indiana food and drink plus live entertainment, discussion panels and cooking demonstrations.

Tickets for Dig IN, A Taste of Indiana are on sale now. Save room to ‘dig in’ on August 25th!