Unless they had an unusually warm fall back when I was a baby and if it doesn’t frost on Halloween night, this will be the first frost-free October I have ever experienced during my 67 years of crawling and walking around central and eastern Kentucky.
I was only crawling in October 1949 and obviously don’t remember anything about it, but if that year had experienced the first frost this late, I feel sure that my mom would have told me about it.
What I do know pretty much for sure is that the latest “first frost” we’ve experienced here in Garrard County’s Paint Lick Lowlands was on October 17, back in the early 1990s. I don’t remember the exact year, but I do recall writing it down. Not only did it frost, but we had a hard freeze that destroyed the last green tomatoes I was trying to protect with multi-layered cheesecloth so I could brag about picking ripe tomatoes in November.
Incidentally, I have pulled that one off several times over the years, but it has rarely been worth the time and trouble I went through to make it happen. It’s much easier to go ahead and pick your reasonably mature tomatoes at the first frost warning, wrap them individually in back issues of your newspaper and store them in your basement or some other place that stays kinda cool but doesn’t get below freezing.
Your refrigerator is too cool but if you do it correctly, you can have red-ripe garden tomatoes with your Thanksgiving Dinner. I’ve done it many times. One year I even kept a couple or three until Christmas, but they wound up tasting worse than the ones you can pay two bucks for at your grocer’s that time of year.
In the meantime, I still have over half a dozen Giant Syrian tomatoes hanging on the vine in a container behind the house and I should be picking ripe ‘maters well into November without even trying if this weather keeps holding on.
If you’ve never had a homegrown Giant Syrian tomato, you have not experienced the absolutely greatest taste sensation that ever came out of a home garden. My buddy, Fred Beste, who lives there on the Pocono Tundra in Wind Gao, Penn., introduced me to them a couple years ago and I am still reeling from the fact that a New England Yankee has come up with easily, the best ‘mater I have ever tasted.
I realize I’m off the subject here, but, heck, when have you ever read this column and found it confined to a single subject? Digression should be expected. Besides procrastination, it’s what I do best.
Anyway, Giant Syrian tomatoes are not, to my knowledge, commercially available as plants and there are dozens of imposters on places like eBay or name your favorite computer search engine.
The only place you are apt to find the seed I grow is from a company called Reimer’s Seeds located in Saint Leonard, Md. They do not have a printed catalogue and the only way to order is on their website (reimerseeds.com). The seed is pretty pricey — I paid $9 for just over a dozen seed last year and, as far as I’m concerned, they were worth way, way more than that. Suffice to say that, if the seed I’m saving this year produce as well as the company seeds, I will plan to get into the Giant Syrian seed business. The fruit has very few seeds and I will not have any to spare come spring.
There’s nothing “Giant” or “Syrian” about the vegetable, or fruit, if you insist. It is somewhat larger than your average Burpee Big Boy and it is more purple than red at maturity, but it was born in West Virginia and none of its ancestors have ever set foot in the Mid East.
And speaking of Halloween (at least I think I did before the rude digression), I just bought one of those giant bags of Reese’s Cups to pass out to trick-or-treaters. It says here on the bag that I should keep the last two for myself.
And that’s why I bought a bag that has 144. We’ve had two trick-or-treaters in the 20 years we have lived here on Charlie Brown Road. But I am, in fact, keeping the last two pieces of candy for myself.