Tomatoes = Summer, No?

In pies, sandwiches, salads—there's absolutely NOTHING like a homegrown tomato. And growing them? Practically a Southern art. I prove that here....

If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing "Papa" Futch perform with the Blue Dogs (above) at Rockin' on the Point, you will know exactly what I'm talking about. He leads into the song with a monologue about waiting for your tomatoes to ripen that's adorable. The Dogs covered "Home Grown Tomatoes" on their Soul Dog Food album and it remains one of my favorite tunes, kitschy as it is.


Why? Because I am completely in love with tomatoes. I am quite fond of the Blue Dogs, too, but tomatoes are pretty much my favorite thing to eat, period. I take growing them quite seriously and basically threw a hissy fit when all the rain we've had lately threatened my heirloom crop that has been doing so well.


When I first started trying to grow them, I asked everyone I knew  how to be good at it. One of the funniest things I heard from a long-time gardener was that everyone who successfully grows tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and such generally runs into a point during the summer where they have given away produce to all their neighbors, family, and friends, and yet the veggies keep on coming. When I asked what the solution was, she stated, "Well, generally I just sneak onto the porch, drop the veggies off and then run." Sounds like a plan to me, I thought. You feel free to just drop that right off at my place.


Thinking she was exaggerating, I didn't really understand what she meant until the first summer after I got married. My father-in-law made us an awesome garden and the cucumbers were prolific. We made pickles. Lots and lots and lots of pickles. We ate cucumbers constantly. The tomatoes, though, were harder to get rid of. Apparently there are some poor misguided souls who don't like tomatoes. And I just honestly don't even know what to say about that. And by the end of the summer, I was indeed about to start knocking on doors and running away.


Tomato growing in the South is an art, and by some accounts, not even an option. In the movie Steel Magnolias, Ouiser (right) tries to give Clairee tomatoes. When Clairee protests about the number in the bag, Ouiser states she doesn't even like them, so someone else has to eat them. The conversation that ensues is the God's honest truth and I have actually heard several variations of it in real life.


Anelle: "Then why do you grow them?"
Ouiser: "Because I'm an old Southern woman and we're supposed to wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. Don't ask me those questions. I don't know why, I don't make the rules!"


About a year ago, I stated that the perfect tomato sandwich would probably be my last meal if I were able to chose. I stand by that assessment wholeheartedly. Some of my other favorite ways to enjoy this amazing food (besides the perfect sandwich) is in a tomato pie or in caprese.


So tell me: Do you grow tomatoes? Do you have secrets you'll divulge? What's your favorite way to eat them?