If you ask any East Texas old-timer where to get the best tomatoes, you’ll probably get the same answer: Jacksonville. That’s because Jacksonville was once the Tomato Capital of all Texas, and it still turns out some of the ripest, juiciest, sweetest tomatoes you can find.
Just now coming into season, Jacksonville tomatoes are famous both because of history and taste. The soil in that part of East Texas is rich, red and loamy, perfect for growing tomatoes. Farmers in the area discovered that early on. They were the first in Texas to begin growing tomatoes commercially in the late 1800s. By about 1930, more tomatoes were shipped out of Jacksonville than anywhere else in the nation.
Tomato production has since fallen off, but Jacksonville continues to identify with the tomato. Their historic Tomato Bowl stadium, once named as one of the ten best stadiums in the state by Texas Monthly, has been hosting football games and events since 1940.
And every June, the town throws the Jacksonville Tomato Festival. (Last year, Food Network Canada personality Bob Blumer was on hand to help make the world’s largest bowl of salsa, weighing in at more than 2,600 pounds.) This year’s festival is scheduled for this Saturday, June 11. There’ll be tomato eating contests, tomato-peeling contests, and a salsa contest, among other tomato-centric events.
But if you can’t make it down to Jacksonville, just get into FRESH this summer: We’ll carry fresh, delicious Jacksonville tomatoes, for as long as the crop holds. They really do deserve their reputation as some of the best tomatoes you’ll try.