You may have already noticed juicy, budding tomatoes in your home garden, but mid- to late-June kicks off the official start of tomato season in South Carolina. To take advantage of this sweet, tangy produce, head to your local farmers market or check out local restaurants that incorporate this summer delight into their dishes.
FIG executive chef Jason Stanhope said it’s still early in South Carolina’s tomato season, but regional tomatoes from places like Florida are ready to roll. And the dirtier the tomatoes, the better they taste, he said.
“Lyle at Limehouse called me. He said, ‘Hey, we’re getting our tomatoes in from our Florida guys, and they have dirt all over them.
“There’s just something different about a dirt ground tomato. Like most vegetables, tomatoes need to struggle a little bit, so in the tomato world, dry is good and wet is bad.”
As the seasons change, so do the menus.
“It reminds you of why you like to eat seasonally,” Stanhope said. “You get these snapshots of what’s happening now in our region.”
Here are some restaurants bringing ripe tomatoes to your plates.
Tomato and burrata
Bistronomy by Nico
64 Spring St. (Downtown)
This petite plate uses local burrata paired with cuts of heirloom tomatoes from Limehouse and served over croutons. The natural sweetness of the dish is enhanced by cucumbers, microgreens and seaweed salad in a sweet soy vinaigrette adding freshness to the naturally sweet and acidic dish, which is topped with benne seeds for added texture.
Caprese panini and heirloom burrata salad
36-38 Broad St. (Downtown)
The caprese panini is a crunchy, sweet and savory sandwich stacked with arugula, Floridian tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, pesto and basil mayo pressed between grilled sourdough bread. For something lighter, the heirloom burrata salad combines arugula, fresh burrata, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, shaved red onion and is topped with a lemon vinaigrette and balsamic reduction with grilled sourdough on the side. Add chicken or shrimp for protein at an additional cost.
Slow-roasted pork and chilled heirloom tomato
232 Meeting St. (Downtown)
The slow-roasted pork was introduced early in the tomato season at FIG, and Stanhope said he plans for it to join the larger menu once local tomatoes become more regular and ripe. He said the entree is a combination of hot and cold, with thinly sliced slow-roasted pork served with thick wedges of chilled heirloom tomatoes topped with pesto.
Green tomato carpaccio
4 Cannon St. (Downtown)
Start a dinner off with an appetizer that’s fresh and cool like the green tomato carpaccio at The Grocery, paired with roasted corn, cherry tomatoes and fried green tomato pickles, plucked from a variety of regional farms like the Green Heart Project, Lowland Farms, Rosebank Farms and Hickory Bluff. There’s nothing like a balance of acidity and tartness to kick off a delicious meal.
101 N. Main St. (Summerville)
Chef Nico Romo’s burrata is served with a variety of tomatoes from Kurios Farms in Moncks Corner over basil pesto and finished with a balsamic drizzle and microgreens. The burrata is paired with housemade focaccia bread for dipping, making it the perfect Italian summer dish.
Heirloom tomato sandwich
547 King St. (Downtown)
Prohibition’s heirloom tomato sandwich is intentionally simple to showcase the flavors of Johns Island tomatoes from GrowFood Carolina. Thick slices of heirloom tomatoes, crispy black pepper bacon and peppery arugula are packed between toasted Normandy Farms sourdough bread smeared with a house avocado mayo.
While local farmers markets and grocery stores offer a variety of local tomatoes, nothing beats going out onto a field and picking your own.
Here are four places near the Charleston area to get your hands dirty and pluck your tomatoes straight from the ground:
Brigger Hill Farm
1884 Bugby Plantation Road, Wadmalaw Island
Open May to August, Mon.-Sat. 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Hickory Bluff Berry Farm
245 Hickory Bluff Lane, Holly Hill
Open May to June, Tues.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Dempsey Farms UPick
1576 Sea Island Pkwy., St. Helena Island
Open June to July, hours vary.
King’s Farm Market
2559 SC-174, Edisto Island Love Best of Charleston? Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.
Open June to August, Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
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