This Tiny Alabama Town Grows the Best Tomatoes in the World

Ever heard of a Slocomb tomato?

Like sweet tea or properly fried chicken, Southerners know a good tomato when they taste one. In the tiny town of Slocomb, located in southeast Alabama's Geneva County, it's not just good tomatoes locals are after, it's the best tomatoes. And for that, only a Slocomb tomato will do. Known as the world's best tomato, the term Slocomb tomato doesn't refer to a specific variety, but rather any tomato that was grown by one of just a dozen farmers who produce summer's favorite fruit on Slocomb's 100 acres of tomato farmland.

Slocomb is so proud of its tomatoes that the town holds an annual festival celebrating the juicy Southern delicacy on the third Saturday in June each year. For more than 30 years, the entire town (plus loads of guests from neighboring locales) have diligently gathered to devour fried green tomatoes and tomato sandwiches made exclusively with Slocomb tomatoes.

Tomatoes on the Vine
Jed Share / Kaoru Share / Getty

But what makes the Slocomb tomato so special? After all, their seeds aren't pure, prized, and passed down like those of heirloom tomatoes, and they don't require any special growing techniques. Many contend that it has to do with the soil. They argue that there's more acidity in Slocomb's soil which somehow leads to superior taste. But since tomatoes grow in all 50 states and aren't so picky when it comes to growing conditions, John Aplin of Aplin Farms, one of Slocomb's longest-running tomato growers, isn't buying it.

Instead, he says Slocomb's tomatoes are set apart because of how and when they're harvested. Unlike tomatoes you can buy at the grocery store that are picked when green, then ripened by gas, Slocomb tomatoes aren't picked until they're at peak ripeness. They're then carefully plucked from their vines and hand-packed in the field to avoid bruising. As a result, the average time from field to mouth of a Slocomb tomato is only a few days, whereas those you buy in the grocery store may have been off vine for upwards of two or three weeks. It's as simple as that. Fresh produce tastes better, and when it comes to freshness, Slocomb can't be beat.

Like Vidalia onions, Slocomb tomatoes have quite the reputation to uphold. The farmers who grow them sell almost exclusively to nearby farm markets and restaurants they trust. They often get requests for product from big-box grocery stores, but since they can't guarantee the store won't misidentify other tomatoes as Slocomb once they run out, they politely decline.

They may be hard to get, but isn't that true of all the best things in life? And if you're lucky enough to get your hands on one, we recommend columnist Sean Dietrich's "recipe" for enjoying it. Just be prepared with a few napkins because rivulets of tomato juice running down your forearms will most definitely be involved.

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