Whitesburg KY

Summer is the time for delicious tomatoes

Ahhh . . . tomatoes. Homegrown tomatoes, red, yellow, pick and now they are growing white ones. I’ve always loved tomatoes. My first memory of them is at Graveyard Hollow (I refuse to call it Westwood). I’d plant them, hoe them, fertilize them, and harvest them. Sometimes, I’d take a salt shaker to the garden, and pick me a big red one. Without even washing it, I’d eat it right there.

We had small yards, so we all played in the mountains. One Sunday during the summer, Dad and Mom decided to go with us to the top of the mountain, where Dave Smith and I were building a small log cabin. We went past the cabin and on around the ridge, and came upon a small plot of tomatoes, yellow ones, and many were ripe. Of course I wanted to take some home to eat, but Dad said, “I think those might belong to Ben Brown.”

The next day, Dave Smith and I gathered 10 bottles along the roadside, and took them to the store. We traded them for a 10- cent box of salt. Up the mountain we went, and we ate those yellow tomatoes until we couldn’t hold another bite. I haven’t eaten a yellow tomato since.

We moved to Blackey when I was 12. Beside the road going up the hill to our house, Baxter and Opal Collins had planted some “tommytoes.” On the way home one day, I stopped and ate my fill. I don’t know what Baxter had sprayed them with, but I was apparently allergic to it. I broke out in hives all over. Mom poured a cup of Clorox in my bath water, and that took care of that problem. But now, I had another. I smelled like Clorox, and no amount of washing could get rid of the smell. Mom said that I had to go to school. All day long at Stuart Robinson School, every time someone would start sniffing, I would immediately say, “Who is that smelling like Clorox?”

Last year, I didn’t plant enough tomatoes. This year, I planted enough for me and everybody else. We canned some, made juice with some, and gave some to my mother. I ate a tomato a day with my meals. Then I couldn’t eat them fast enough, and they got ahead of me. I had a garden full of tomatoes, and we didn’t want them. They are still coming in. Every two days, I pick tomatoes. I’ve given them away at church, took some to the school, and given some away to the children’s parents. I go around asking people, “Do you want some tomatoes?”

Then another problem showed up. Somewhere in my garden, there is a terrapin. He loves tomatoes, but he doesn’t eat a whole one. That stupid cousin of a turtle takes a few bites off each ripe tomato he comes across. I’ll bet I have found his teeth marks on more than a bushel of my tomatoes. When I find one with his bite marks in it, I throw it over into the weeds. Maybe some tomatoes will come up from the seeds over there in the weeds next year, and he’ll stay out of mine. Does anyone know how to make a terrapin trap? In the cookbook I wrote, there is a recipe for terrapin soup. If he keeps this up, and I find him . . . well, I might have to try it.

But hey, what the heck. He’s helping me get rid of my excess tomatoes, isn’t he? I think I’ll just pick my beans and let him have the rest of the tomatoes. I’m glad he doesn’t like beans.

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