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My favorite part of summer isn’t sunshine or swimming pools. It’s not warm temperatures or fireflies at night.

It’s tomatoes. Plump, bright red tomatoes.

Tomato sandwiches on white bread with Duke’s Mayo. Tomato salads with cucumbers and Italian vinaigrette. Tomato pie topped with sweet basil.

Tomato pie — and not the Sicilian version of dough and sauce — is a savory dish created in the Southern United States and adapted in Appalachia. And, it’s perfect this time of year.

This pie is at its prime as a summer dish, when tomatoes are in season and naturally sweet. It’s a great way to use up those end-of-the-season fruits (or vegetables?) from the garden. (P.S. Scientifically, the tomato is a fruit. But in a culinary sense, it’s a vegetable.)

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The summertime pie likely dates back just a few decades. Southern Living published its first recipe for tomato pie in June 1978 — around the time the dish seemed to become widely popular.

Most recipes call for a pie shell with a filling of caramelized tomatoes — maybe with basil or other herbs — covered with a topping of grated cheese with mayonnaise or sour cream. I’ve also seen a far less common sweet tomato pie that uses green tomatoes that have been butter and sugared, though it seems to date back much later in history.

Whether you have red tomatoes or green tomatoes on hand, they can help make a delicious southern tomato pie. Try a savory version with tomatoes like Mortgage Lifters, Cherokee Purples or Brandywines. Or maybe Old German, Akers West Virginia and Hillbillies. Having at least two varieties helps provide some variation in texture and flavor.

Enjoy one last tomato dish of the season by tasting the flavors of the south — no matter whether you say “toMAYto” or “toMAHto.”

Candace Nelson is a marketing professional living in Charleston. She is the author of the book “The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll”

from WVU Press. In her free time, Nelson blogs about Appalachian food culture at Find her on Twitter at

@Candace07 or email

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