Planting now for tomato ritual later

Published 4:00 pm Sunday, April 2, 2023

By Harold Brummett
Denmark Star Route

The weather has warmed and cooled and warmed and gotten cold and warmed again. The signs say there will be more cold weather before we finally get to the steady state of warm to hot and frost is behind us. Blackberry winter is still ahead as best as I can tell.

My yankee acquaintances who have moved here from parts of the country where the delineation between winter and spring is more pronounced plant, replant and plant again all the while bemoaning the lack of weather consistency here in North Mississippi.

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Unfortunately, there is no rule or law they can pass to make the atmosphere behave. Pontotoc is where I get feed and seed. Plants are on display at both Moore’s and Reeder’s farm supply. Ellis Reeder is the patriarch of the family that runs the store that bears his name. In the late 1990’s I bought some tomato plants around Easter.

Mr. Reeder asked me if I was going to set them out now and I replied as soon as I got home. “Go ahead, Harold, “ he said, “but it is too soon, you set them out now and in about two weeks I’ll sell you some more.” I set them out. Mr. Reeder sold me more in about two weeks.

We can tomatoes in our family and use them in those cold winter days when the wish of warmer days are in our thoughts. Since we can tomatoes we always look at the jar to make sure the contents look fresh, open the lid and listen for the pop and rush of a vacuum seal being broken and finally a small taste to ensure the contents are good.

My son opened a jar and I asked him what the contents smelled like. He replied, “It smells like summertime.”

Occasionally in a moment of weakness, I will get a store bought tomato. It is winter and the only similarity between store bought and summertime vine ripened tomatoes is the color. I plan for the first large ripe tomato and when it reaches that wonderful peak of goodness and the ritual put into play.

First, the ends are cut off, the bloom end and the vine end just as little of it cut away as possible. Next two slices of soft white bread are put on a plate. What follows is slathering of real mayo, not light, not made with olive oil, but decadent full flavored mayonnaise.

Mayo is applied as if mortaring a brick and put to both pieces of bread. The chunk of tomato is lightly salted and placed between the mayo/bread. A break taken at this point while I change into shorts and no shirt.

The tomato creation is carried to the porch and eaten without ceremony and a complete disregard of civilized dining.

The warmth of the just harvested tomato and the cool mayo contrasting as the concoction runs down both my insides and outside at the same time.

Using a garden hose, I sluice myself off, the ritual completed for the year. Next comes canning and more civilized consumption of the harvest to the tune of BLT’s and vegetable suppers with sliced tomatoes as the star attraction.

Guessing the best time to plant and shepherding the young vines to maturity simply makes the harvest that much more wonderful. Back and forth cool weather for now, but summertime is coming.

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