Tri-City Ledger -

By Earline Smith Crews
Guest Writer 

Living and having vine ripe tomatoes

 

June 4, 2020



Just now I ate a tomato sandwich for breakfast. I like my WHITE bread so fresh it limps. I LOVE Dukes mayonnaise. I was converted from Kraft by a new recent friend Sean Dietrich. He made it so tempting I went looking, found it and now I'm hooked. Lawd Hammercy!

Sorry Kraft..........................

So as I sat smacking away on my breakfast 'samich while my mind idled, it came floating to the top and now I'm writing it.

Back when Daddy planted a two acre garden just out our back porch we had tomatoes. Tomatoes not being the only vegetable, but probably the most important one for me. I would pour a handful of salt into my dungaree pocket or in the tail of my shirt, head out to the first row of those globes of delicious to sit down on my butt in the dirt and eat my fill of tomatoes.

Daddy and Mama grew enough tomatoes to have for eating fresh off the vine and canning to have for tomato gravy and homemade soup all fall and winter.

Once the first tomato turned red, the garden was open for business. I ate tomatoes. I went to the first row just behind the smokehouse for starters and worked my way east.

If you never ate a tomato fresh off the vine at seven o'clock in the morning, then in my estimation, " Luther, you ain't lived".

No reason to wash off the dust or splash back sand caused from rain, just rub it on your britches leg or a raggedy dress tail and bite down. The juice would explode out to drip down your hand and run to the elbow and fall to the ground. If you were a gifted soul like myself, you learned to lick your fingers, arms and elbows.

I cleaned up tomato juice.

Fresh off the vine tomato juice was a terrible thing to waste.

I never wasted.

Mornings weren't the only time spent feasting on vine ripe tomatoes. We ate them when we wanted a snack, for late afternoon and just before bedtime. Platters of sliced tomatoes at dinner and supper was just a bonus.

Vine ripe tomatoes.................

Mama required that we always keep our eyes open for big old fat tomato worms. If we happened to see one, we picked it off and pitched it over the fence to the chickens. The chicken yard being connected to the garden was a convenience for us. We gave all the vegetable trimmings to the chickens. They gave us eggs. We had a win win system going on at our place.

They never got tomatoes trimmings unless we found a rotten one or until canning time. Then they got the scalded off skins and ends.

Tomato caning was a busy time. We went into the garden everyday to pick the ripened fruit, we placed them on the picnic/work table that was built between the old china berry tree and the smokehouse. When Mama decided we had a good amount to can, the rush was on.

We had to drag out all the Kerr Mason jars from the smokehouse where we had them sitting on shelves waiting to be rewashed, scalded and ready for tomatoes.

We placed the tomatoes in our washtubs, poured gallons of boiling water over them to help loosen the skins and watched as the skins started to split away from the fruit.

We had to work this part really fast because the fruit would start to lose juice if they stayed in the hot water too long.

Everybody got involved.

We grabbed a tomato, slipped off the skin, cut out the stem end and placed the tomato into dish pans for Mama.

Mama spooned up the tomatoes to pack into the jars, the juices started to fill in around the fruit. As the jar filled to just an inch or so below the mouth, a spoonful of salt was added, the lid and ring was placed on the jar, twisted on tight and placed into the caner.

Mama and one or the other of us would lift the canner to the eye of the stove and wait for the water around the jars to start boiling.

Once the tomatoes were processed to Mama's liking, the rack of tomatoes were lifted out to be placed on towels for cooling.

I can hear that "tink" sound to this day.

That was the sound Mama wanted to hear. The lid had sealed.

Our tomato gravy and soup was winter ready.

Of all the delicious vegetables ever planted in our garden, tomatoes were the ones that drew me.

I suffered tomato rash many times from eating so many of those acid laden things. it never hurt me, just left me with red welts that looked like I had measles.

Tomato rash never stood in the way of a good old eating fresh off the vine tomato at seven o'clock in the morning while sitting on my butt in the dirt.

"Luther you ain't lived".

Earline lived.

 
 

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