Fruit or vegetable? The Arkansas General Assembly decided “both” in 1987 when it recognized the tomato as both the official state fruit and vegetable. It was argued that although it was technically a fruit, it was generally eaten as a vegetable.
Tomatoes have been a cornerstone of the agricultural industry in Arkansas for many years. Numerous varieties are grown for local use, shipping and processing. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, Arkansas produced an impressive 28,000 pounds per acre of fresh-market tomatoes in 2012.
In particular, Arkansas celebrates the South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato, also known as the Bradley Pink. This variety of tomato has a translucent skin which reveals the color of the flesh beneath. The Bradley Pink was released in 1961 by Dr. Joe McFerran at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. It was developed to resist wilt and react well to staking or caging. It has been speculated that the variety was named after Dr. McFerran’s father, Bradley McFerran, or Bradley County, where an annual tomato festival is held.
The demand for the Bradley Pink tomato was instant, and it became the most popular tomato in Arkansas soon after its release. Despite new disease- and crack-resistant cultivars becoming more favored for shipping, the Bradley Pink is still considered a delicacy among tomato aficionados. They are a delicious alternative to the thick-skinned varieties that are picked and shipped before ripening. Bradley Pink tomatoes are often enjoyed in salads and “‘mater sandwiches.”