There are, undoubtedly, some bad things about New Orleans summers, and we all know what they are. But as with everything in this city, the good outweighs the bad, and one of the very best things about summer down south is the tomatoes –– the warm, ripe, fragrant, juicy red Creole tomatoes. On days when it’s too hot to turn on the stove, there’s not much better than a tomato sandwich eaten over the sink as the juice runs down to your elbows. Tomatoes, a member of the deadly nightshade family, were long thought to be poisonous and only came into common culinary use in the late 19th century.

A century and change later, it’s hard to imagine New Orleans cooking without tomatoes, tomato juice or tomato paste: We use some form of the delightful fruit in gumbo, jambalaya, court bouillon and of course Bloody Marys! You can’t hide from a New Orleans summer, so you might as well embrace it by kicking off the summer at the French Market Creole Tomato Festival, June 14 and 15 down in the French Quarter. Bring your appetite, some TUMS and a Stain Stick –– and I’ll see you there!