LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -Regardless of how you say tomato, this juicy fruit has many health benefits.
In Lawton, the annual Tomato Festival is a time of celebration, fun competition and plenty of tasting.
The tomato plant is botanically a berry-type fruit, but is also known as a "culinary vegetable." Known as a summertime treat, the tomato has more than 7,500 varieties. The red pigment in the tomato plant comes from lycopene, and lycopene is said to have health benefits, such a lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and some types of cancers.
Oklahoma has bragging rights when it comes to tomatoes. The heaviest tomato ever recorded was grown in 1986, in Edmond, Oklahoma, and weighed seven pounds, 12 ounces. So, no wonder the annual Tomato Festival at the Lawton's Farmer's Market draws crowds from surrounding areas.
Lawton pediatrician Ed Legako is the president of the Southwest Growers Association and says it's important for parents to teach their children about fruits and vegetables at a young age.
"It's important for parents to bring the kids to the farmer's market, not just to the Tomato Festival, but to the market in general. To ask questions, 'what is that?' Learning what's the difference between a tomato and a potato, If it's a red potato, some kids think that's a tomato. So, teaching kids about what are the vegetables and if they come and they help their parents pick them out they're more likely to eat them when the parents offer it to them," Dr. Legako said. "I think if you love tomatoes, you need to come out and check it out, because it's a lot of fun. I really want the public to know to get involved in bringing their homegrown tomatoes to have judged and everybody thinks they have the best salsa. So, bring it to the festival and see what the judges think about whether your salsa is good or not."
This year's festival promises more family fun and more prizes and tastings, but most of all, a chance to get together with others in the community for some good old-fashioned fun.
Be sure to mark your calendars, this year's Tomato Festival takes place in Saturday, July 9, from 7:30 a.m. to noon at the Lawton Farmer's Market.