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Side Dishes: Fresh salsa may have to wait

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Killer tomatoes from other states? Although no cases of illness have been reported in the Green Mountains, the Vermont Department of Health is warning people to stay away from potentially dangerous red fruits because of a spate of salmonella sweeping the country. "The tomatoes here in Vermont that were suspect were pulled from the shelves yesterday," says Agency of Agriculture Public Information Officer Kelly Loftus. "From my understanding, the tomatoes that were involved in the recall came from Texas and New Mexico."

Loftus, who notes that it's not yet tomato season in Vermont, proudly points out that there has never been a recall of Vermont-grown produce. That's just one benefit of buying local, she suggests. "Consumers really want to know where and how their food is grown." Buying from the guy or gal down the road makes that possible.

For now, the FDA is encouraging tomato fiends to munch on varieties that aren't associated with the outbreak: cherry, grape, "on the vine" varieties and "tomatoes grown at home."

Loftus also "uddered" a few comments about Vermont's new dairy mascot - created in a collaboration between the ag agency and the Vermont Dairy Promotion Council - whose name is yet to be determined. "We have a naming contest going right now, which will run through the end of June," Loftus says. No, you can't call her Killer. The names on the table are standard bovine fare: Clover, Buttercup and Daisy.

According to Loftus, the "professional mascot," which will travel to events around the state, is a garden-variety heifer rather than a hip mama. "She's white with reddish-brown spots," Loftus says. "Right now she's wearing overalls adorned with some flowers." So far, the kids who have met Clovercupsy have "been ecstatic, and that gives us a segue to grab their attention and talk to them about the importance of dairy in Vermont," he adds.

Dabutterlover's real identity will be announced at a Vermont Mountaineers game at the end of the month.

Buttsyclove isn't the only flower-bedecked bovine to have graced our streets of late. Last weekend, an estimated 45,000 people showed up to watch 100 of 'em "moo-ve" through downtown Brattleboro during the seventh annual "Strolling of the Heifers." It's like being in Pamplona, but without the running and goring.

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