Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

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Poisoned produce is nothing to joke about, especially when the poison has spread to Arkansas. There are a few things we get excited about down here. Watermelons, for instance. Hope, Arkansas is the Watermelon Capitol of the World, infamous for growing the tastiest and largest melons anywhere. We also grew a U.S. President down there, and another fellow who’d like to be one.

As excited as we get about watermelons, it’s nothing compared to the religion surrounding Arkansas home-grown tomatoes. Almost everyone has at least one plant growing in a sunny part of the yard. Folks with more than a 5′ x 5′ square of unused land usually tuck at least one tomato plant in among the marigolds. Those out in the county grow enough tomatoes to feed a small country. These are always for sale at sweltering roadside stands or out of the back of a pick-up truck. There are people, I tell you, whose sole commerce is to sell those tomatoes.

You can always buy them at a chain grocery store, and a lot of people do. A lot of people, I might add, who are checking their temperatures and waiting to feel queasy right about now. While we’ve been reassured that the Recent Tomato Unpleasantness (salmonella) involves only store-bought tomatoes, just the thought of dire illness has many wondering how to complete their summer without freshly salted and peppered tomatoes on a plate. It’s a little like telling us not to eat devilled eggs. We don’t know how to behave.

My daughter hit the drive-thru at Burger King the other day and came back with ominous tales of posted “no tomatoes here” signs. Same thing at McDonald’s. I reminded her that 1) she’s never eaten a tomato in her life, and 2) in the end, fast food is just as deadly as salmonella tomatoes, but I don’t think she cares. She spent her formative years listening to the Bush administration and is afraid of damn near everything, even tomatoes she doesn’t eat. I did my best, I really did.

No government agency seems to be able to explain why exactly all those store-bought tomatoes are tainted. I find that scarier than the actual salmonella.

In the meantime, it looks like the roadside stands, farmer’s markets, and pick-up trucks are going to be our only safe sources. Unless, of course, you’ve got a staked plant or two in a tub out back. If you have any extras, bring them over to me.

9 thoughts on “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

  1. I tilled ground by <>hand<> by the front porch so I could plant tomatoes. I haven’t done a thing since I planted them three weeks ago, and already they have little green tomatoes weighing down the branches. The squash is growing well, too. Yeah, you’re right. It is a religion.Speaking of watermelons, one of my neighbors, a girl I went to school with, used to grow 200 lb. watermelons for competition in Hope.

  2. Nothing beats a mater sammich. Thick slices, salt and pepper, mayonnaise slathered on light bread. Good think I live across the road from not one but two produce stands. Homegrown tomatoes here I come!

  3. What kind of tomatoes did you plant, Whit? For little ones, the Sweet Millions can’t be beat. There are several varieties of bigger tomatoes I like, though. It’s just got to get hot – NASTY hot – before they taste right.Oh. Tim. I used to have this cookbook called White Trash Cooking that had a recipe for the perfect tomato sandwich, complete with directions to eat it over the sink. I need to find that cookbook.

  4. Eating over the sink… Is that a white trash thing? We always had to eat dripping things over the sink at my grandma’s house. Like peaches from her tree out back. I didn’t have the patience to peel them, so I would wash off the fuzz and eat them like an apple, over the sink. I never had a tomato sandwich… Although I did occasionally eat a whole tomato like an apple over the sink. Usually when my mom and grandma were busy doing real work like canning green beans or working corn. And I was underfoot.

  5. i think the contamination has something to do with manure that was used on the fields. just a rumor i heard. it’s a sad symptom of our crazy long distance food chain. nothing is better than a tomato that magically appears in a plastic bag on the front porch, though.also, 268.8 lb hope melons are amazing, and don’t forget hope is also the birthplace of a certain vortex editor..

  6. Okay, Laura. Now I’m going to have to find some peaches and THOSE won’t be ready for over a month. It’s not entirely White Trash to eat over the sink, though. Kids with drippy fruit should ALWAYS eat over the sink. Wait. Except for watermelon, which is a back-porch activity. Kids and melons belong outside.Abby, forget the President and any presidential hopeful (who I understand will soon be The Voice of Politics on FOX News). The most important thing about Hope is that it spawned a Vortex editor. Mainly because – unlike the other two gentlemen – she won’t embarrass us all on national television.

  7. I asked the man who built the mini-fence around the tomatoes what kind they were, and he said, “The eatin’ kind.” And it’s too damn hot for me to go out just to look at the tags. If we have a small brushfire, I’ll be sure to stoop down to take a look.

  8. I get a little crazy about tomatoes. Tomatoes are to central Ohio as melons (apparently) are to Arkansas. I plant way more plants than I need every year, and I plant way more varieties than necessary. I keep lists of what cultivars I’ve tried, how they did, where I planted them, and giving them grades on fruit production, appearance, taste, etc. I can’s speak for your particular growing climate, but here in Ohio, you can’t beat a Hillbilly tomato for pure tomatoey gorgeousness and juicy deliciousness. Easily fills one of them there White Trash Tomato Sammiches with just one slice, I can assure you.

  9. We’ve got two tubs in the backyard right now-and they’re even organic. That doesn’t seem very southern to me, but I figure my granny’s probably were, too because everything she added to the soil to make her’s grow big came from her kitchen trash. All the talk of tomato sandwiches made my mouth water!! And, over the kitchen sink is the ONLY place to eat them cause all that juice runs down your arm and you can’t be making a mess on Granny’s slipcover. YUMMY!!

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