A festival to celebrate the venerable fruit is happening all week at Lennie’s, August 18-24th. Lennie’s TomatoFEST features a tomato-centric menu all week long and wraps up with a home-grown tomato contest open to the community with prizes for Biggest, Prettiest, Sexiest and Ugliest home-grown tomatoes, Sunday August 24th.   Registration is at 3:30pm; judging begins at 4pm.

This year’s inaugural tomato party coincides with the late August peak of tomato season in southern Indiana.  Lennie’s has been receiving near daily deliveries of organic heirloom tomatoes from their Loesch Farm, for use on a variety of menu items.  Loesch Farm is located just west of Bloomington.

Loesch Farm planted 792 tomato plants in mid-May and the taller varieties now stand more than six feet high.  The smaller fruit are being roasted and frozen by the chefs at Lennie’s, while the larger ones are sliced for sandwiches, in particular, the seasonal Loesch Farm BLT, made with our own tomatoes and thick sliced, house-cured bacon, prepared from Fischer Farms pork belly.

The tomato is nothing short of a phenomenon.  Native to the South American Andes, and in less than 500 years has become a foundation in cuisines around the world.  Sure, we know the Italians love their tomato sauce, but most of us don’t think of Chinese food when we think of the tomato.  In fact, China produces more tomatoes than anywhere else in the world and accounts for 25% of global output.

On the TomatoFEST Menu this week:

–Tortellini Carbonara (Amy’s Sugar Gem tomatoes)

Cheese Tortellini in cream sauce, oven-dried tomatoes, house bacon, asparagus and fresh basil.

–Tuna Melt (Red and Yellow Mix)

Albacore tuna, thick-sliced tomatoes, Havarti cheese, broiled and dressed with mesclun greens and a side of fries or seasonal fresh fruit.

–Caprese Salad (red heirloom)

Thick, heirloom slices, fresh basil, Mozzarella, EVOO and Balsamic.

–Bruschetta Pizza (mixed heirloom)

Lennie’s famous pizza.  Choice of crust.  Garlic-rubbed, EVOO, ricotta, goat cheese, mozzarella, gorgonzola, topped with no less than 5 varieties of diced heirlooms.  Available small and large.

–Greek Chicken Salad (mixed heirloom)

Mixed greens, Miller Farm’s marinated and roasted breast.  Feta cheese, diced heirlooms, local cucumbers, kalamata olives, red peppers, onions, garbanzo beans.