Longing for tomatoes

tomatoes1It took Garrison Keillor’s column today, “Let’s Make Tomatoes Great Again”, to leave me waxing nostalgia about favorite childhood moments. Picking tomatoes from my grandfather’s garden in my grandparents backyard is one of them. By the time my cousins and I were born, I understand that the garden was much smaller than it was when my mom was little. My grandfather was born and raised in Tennessee and after World War II, settled in Richmond. After a few years in an apartment over a corner store in Jackson Ward (that property is quite a coveted spot now, let me tell you!!!), he and my grandmother with their two kids moved into a cute house in Church Hill with a nice sized backyard. Plenty of space for a garden.

I remember being told that in their early days the garden was nearly the size of the backyard. I remember it being about half that size when I was little and sadly as he got older, the garden got smaller. Eventually to my dismay, and that of others, it was no more. He used to give peas, corn, peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes to neighbors. My fond memories as a kid include going out back to pick tomatoes off the vine and other vegetables for dinner. It was just that big.

Now with just about everything comes a consequence if it’s too much. In this case, for me, tupperwareit was the abundance of tomatoes. I still remember pulling those red, juicy, dusty things off the vine, armed with a white Tupperware salt shaker (which resembled a column), and chomping away. There’s still nothing in the world like a fresh tomato off the vine with that itty bitty dirt on it. Yep, I grew up in the city, but my grandfather’s country roots are long a part of me… along with my love for bonafide country music – the real stuff, George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Lord, don’t get me started on my girl, Patsy Cline. (And there I digress…) Anyway, my phantom tomato devouring got the best of me one summer when my face began to break out into little splotches. The doctor told me I couldn’t eat tomatoes any more. Agog, I was, no doubt. Yet, in spite of his diagnosis about the tomatoes being the culprit for my temporary malady, the medicine he prescribed worked well enough and I went back to my tomatoes! Haven’t had a problem since!

Funny thing is now – with all of the newfangled ones in the produce sections, I don’t eat them as much as I used to. I wish I’d learned to grow them myself. I’m not a fan of those cardboard Roma tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes taste like bland water. The ones left on the vine, called “Tomatoes on the Vine” are okay, but they’re so dang clean, they don’t taste like they’re “on the vine”. When I can get them fresh from a roadside vendor or a farmer’s market, I’m back in my element, and once again sitting in the middle of my grandfather’s garden next to the vine slurping up a dusty, tasty tomato with that shaker of salt.

 

 

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15 thoughts on “Longing for tomatoes

  1. Yes, yes, yes! There is NOTHING like fresh-off-the-vine-from-the-garden tomatoes and a shaker of salt in the summer! Ahhhhh…. Thank you for this delicious rumination, Tonya. I’m laughing out loud because as I write, there are two small pots of tomato plant seedlings, nestled by the basil, rosemary, and oregano — I finally got tired of those grocery store cardboard tomatoes. Time to grow my own garden, even if it is just on my windowsill. xo

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    1. Yesss!! Definitely need to do that!! Aren’t those in the store just ugh?! I keep thinking they need to be outside LOL! My mom has hers set in the patio. She’s slapped my hands away… she remembers me and those things! Tee hee.

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      1. Ugh — I can’t eat the ones in the store. They’re not really tomatoes, you know?! I found someone’s post on YouTube — he had the most amazing windowsill garden, so I decided to go for it. So much fun! I’ve got several herbs, lettuce, basil, and now the tomatoes. An avocado just now sprouting and lemon, orange and grapefruit seeds waiting. Wheeee!!! LOL–your mom knows you too well! Hee hee!

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      2. Ick, they aren’t! You’re inspiring me to give it a try!!! I wish I had their her green thumb and his!! I’ll bet your kitchen smells just awesome.

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      3. Do it!!! It’s so easy!
        We can share notes and trade pics 🙂 … I love looking at my windowsill. It just puts a smile on my face!

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      4. Yes!!! Start with green onions. The are SO easy. Buy a bunch at the store, cut them off so about four inches is left, plop it into a cup of water and put in the windowsill.

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