Tomatoes… by JoAnn

Two tomatoes and a piece of tomato on the table.

There are many things that I look forward to in the summer months, and fresh veggies and fruit are top of the list. There is something about the taste of that first picking of green beans and cucumbers that words just can’t describe. You have to taste the perfectly cooked green beans with a side of sliced cucumber, accompanied by either a hot biscuit or wedge of cornbread. Add a glass of iced tea or even my favorite buttermilk, and you will swear you’re in Heaven. It’s truly a treat.

Although I grew up learning how to plant a large vegetable garden, it has been many years since I have grown anything of my own; vegetable or otherwise. My taste buds don’t really care about that and still have me craving the new summer crops, just like I did when I was a kid. When I was a little girl, it was not unusual to sit outside on a warm day with a salt shaker in hand and eat tomatoes till I thought I would burst. Still, to this day, my favorite thing to have during the summertime is a juicy, homegrown tomato!

The great thing about growing tomatoes, there are always plenty. It almost seems like you will never run out! My Mama would bring them inside, and they would be placed on the kitchen window sills. Even the back porch, living room, bedrooms, and bathroom window sills were filled. We would have so many tomatoes hanging out in the widows that I imagine someone who didn’t know what was going on would think we were crazy. But my daddy was particularly proud of his “organic” tomatoes and didn’t want even one to go to waste. I remember him saying what a shame it would be to let just one spoil. Mama agreed. You probably realized we didn’t have air conditioning back then, and the windows were always open. Haha.

Mama would “can” as many tomatoes as she had jars to do so. She placed the whole tomatoes into boiling water just long enough to make it easy to remove the peel. Then into a sterile jar, they would go. In a few days, jars upon jars would be sealed and ready for their rightful place in our dirt basement. She would also make and can tomato juice. Later on, those tomatoes and juice would be used in the winter months to make vegetable beef soup on a cold day. I still remember how good the house would smell when I got home from school on a brisk day, and a pot of Mama’s soup would be simmering on the stove. I couldn’t wait to have a bowl of that steamy deliciousness. I still make that recipe to this day, but the tomato part never tastes quite the same.

Since my daddy became unable to garden and grow his tomatoes many years ago, I have not had nary one that tasted as good as his. Not even close. Every year I search the entire summer for a tomato that maybe will be as good as Daddy’s. I never even get close to finding one. No doubt the fresh, homegrown ones are definitely better than store-bought. But none have ever tasted like Daddy’s. I wonder if he had a special secret to growing his tomatoes that only he knew about. Or maybe it’s just me and my longing to have my dad back in my life somehow, even if it comes by way of a tomato.

I will probably continue to search yearly for the best tomatoes, fruits, and veggies. Maybe I will give 5-gallon bucket gardening a try next year. Heck, that’s one of the best parts of summer! Unless you can still grow your own. Now that would be wonderful.