Jack Simpson - 08/28/09

This is the time of the year for homegrowns, yes, as in tomatoes! There is nothing quite like this fruit, some say is a vegetable.

Folks I have spoken with have loads of advice about what preparations have to be made to gain sweet, tasty tomatoes. One fellow tells me he starts out with seeds in pots and uses a grow light in his greenhouse. Someone else tells me that strong sunlight is the clue, along with the proper soil preparation and planting.

This oldtimer claims he warms the soil in advance of planting by mulching and covering the ground with plastic to heat it. He takes his small plants out of pots and buries them deeper than they were in the container. Sometimes he digs a trench and lays the plants in a shallow row sideways. He swears by lime and cow manure, and is a stickler for pinching off the suckers.

Anyway, there are books written about how to plant and tend tomatoes so the ripened fruit will end up being a tasty treat.

This year my wife planted a few tomatoes along the border of the patio. It was very sunny in the location and she instructed that large stakes be placed to support the plants. She was right! Some plants grew as high as six feet, and the crop was a real success. We had chosen Better Boys, Big Boys and slipped in a Rutgers or two.

All through July and into August we have harvested and enjoyed lunches made with tomato sandwiches. We have joined all those who have raised a crop this year. We have eaten tomatoes with sweet onions, with bacon and lettuce, in salads, and plain on buttered bread. We have stewed them, mixed them with okra, blanched them and placed them in the freezer for next winter's soups.

There is something very special about a homegrown tomato. It tastes so much better than one imported from elsewhere . . . don't you agree?

It may surprise you to know that tomatoes are popular not only with people but with critters as well. Birds and bugs seem to love them.

I recently packed a lunch to eat in a local park while on my lunch break. As soon as I set out my food and sliced my tomatoes, bugs swarmed all over me! Yes, those pesky flies with the ants not far behind were more than willing to share my lunch with me.

I knew homegrowns were popular. I just did not know how much they were favored as a lunch meal by one and all! As I ran for cover, the critters had taken over a portion of my favored food. I looked back as they seemed happy with their victory and my retreat.

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Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.