Father’s Day is a day to honor the fathers and father figures in our lives. Today, I want to share with everyone something my Daddy does best: grow tomatoes.
I dare say that not all tomatoes are created equally! Many would argue that the shiny red tomatoes purchased from the grocery, or sometimes even from a roadside stand, are the best out there. Those folk just don’t know any better. In my eyes, heart, and taste buds, only tomatoes grown from Daddy’s garden are truly homegrown.
Rudolph Rose, my Daddy, grows the Celebrity variety. Time has lost my memory of Papa Rose’s variety, but Granddaddy grew red and yellow varieties. Grandmommie was a yellow tomato champion as she was allergic to the high acid in red tomatoes.
Daddy purchases his tomato slips from the Co-Op on the first of May. The small plants (about the size of Daddy’s longest finger) are in trays, and he takes a seemingly contrary tactic: placing them in the direct sun for a day to allow them to wilt.
The next morning he waters them really well and waits for them to perk back up, as they will. This makes each plant tough and gives it the energy to grow and produce the best-tasting to
matoes. Then off to the garden, he goes to lay out his rows by stretching strings straight across from one end of the garden to the other. Digging along the string, he spaces each hole two feet apart and several inches deep. He then pinches off the bottom leaves, leaving only the top two to three leaves, planting half the slip in the ground.
Daddy says even though the plants are small, you must pack the dirt around them very tightly with your feet. Then he follows up with a small handful of Epsom salt, sprinkled around each plant, and lets them grow. When the plants reach “knee-high,” he places tomato cages around each plant and gives them another dose of Epsom salt. They will grow as high as 5 feet tall and produce the best tomatoes you have ever eaten.
The anticipation of the first ruby red tomato to appear amongst its fellow green ones is like finding a diamond in the rough. The only way to enjoy that beauty is to eat it in its purest form — sliced, then and there, and sprinkled with salt.
The thing that I know for sure is nothing describes the South or tastes more completely like summertime than a freshly grown, sliced tomato between two pieces of white bread and slathered with mayonnaise. That good ol’ tomato sandwich is a sensation that only summertime can bring. An essential to this masterpiece is the mayonnaise on toasted bread. Be it sweet Miracle Whip from childhood or the tangier version from adulthood, the combo is a winner. Placing crispy bacon just so and adding a layer of perky chilled lettuce makes for splendid eating for lunch or dinner. Another ideal choice for breakfast or snacking would be biscuits left from morning baking. Grab those warm biscuits, add bacon and slices of tomato. You'll find yourself amidst the ultimate summer dining.
You can find stories like this and many others in Servin’ Up Summer available for purchase here. It’s my newest collection of recipes. Servin’ Up Summer includes my favorite summer dishes, cocktails, and desserts. It’s a taste of summer in the South on every page. Available now for only $29.95.