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OPINION

May the tomatoes of today be as good as those past remembered

Gale Rose
Pratt Tribune
A pair of ripe cherry tomatoes are ready to eat. Tomatoes are a popular plant in gardens.

By the time you read this, the first tomato of the season at my house will be a good tasting memory. A pair of hard working cherry tomatoes have ripened up and are ready to take up an honored place on my dinner table.

I tried growing tomatoes last year but didn't have much luck with the cherry variety so I tried something different this year and it seems to be working. 

I've got three plants, all are doing well, but only the cherry variety has anything close to producing a tomato for my plate. A beef steak tomato plant is producing a lot of vine but so far not much in the way of blossoms. I know I should just be patient but a there's not much better on a fresh, hot hamburger than a big thick slice of tomato. 

All this reminds me of growing up on a little farm in the northwest part of the county. Every spring, mom would put in a big garden with lots of potatoes, green beans and a bunch of tomato plants. Dad would hook up the disc and make a couple of passes at the garden site that many years before had been a hog pen so there was lots of natural fertilizer already incorporated in the soil. 

I would help prepare the soil and get the plants started. The farm is in the sand hills so water just soaks in right away. Care had to be taken to keep the tomato plants, and everything else in the garden, watered throughly. The garden sat next to a livestock water tank so we had easy access to water. 

In the early years, water was supplied only by a windmill. So when the wind didn't blow, we didn't have water. We also didn't have an indoor bathroom. We had an outhouse, a galvanized metal bath tub for baths in the winter in front of the stove in the kitchen, and a little outdoor shower that stood not far from the garden. It had solar heated water so we were, in some ways, very much ahead of our time. 

During the hot months of summer, it didn't take long for plants to draw out moisture so to make sure the garden stayed healthy, we kept a close eye on the moisture.

There were lots of insects and other critters that liked to feast on plant and produce. We raised chickens and besides producing eggs and providing the occasional noon meal feast, they were pretty good at keeping the bug population down. 

But there were a lot of insects. Sometimes I would spend what seemed like way to many hours making sure there were no critters munching on the tomato plants or anything else in the garden. With so many plants and so many tomatoes, we couldn't eat them all as they ripened so mom would set up the canning supplies. She and I would go pick as many as mom needed for canning then we'd head to the house. I would get out of mom's way because when she got busy, she worked better and more efficient alone. 

While it was great to have fresh tomatoes as well as green beans and potatoes fresh out of the garden, some how they tasted even better in the middle of winter when mom would open a jar and serve it up like it had just been picked. 

I love the flavor of tomatoes and mom would sometimes serve them out of the jar or she would fix up this dish that involved some spices and bread. It was cooked on the stove and tasted great. But my all time favorite thing mom would fix with tomatoes was Swiss steak. That was heaven.

The meat was so juicy and tender, you could cut it with a spoon. And the flavor was unbeatable. I still remember how it tasted and would love to taste it again. It made the best gravy ever. 

It was so good, I would even lick the roaster to get every drop. 

I may have to stop thinking about it because I'm starting to salivate. 

Whether it was a fresh tomato right off the vine or a thick slice on a hot hamburger or canned or in Swiss steak, you just can't beat a home-grown tomato. 

So, come on plants, I dare you to produce so many tomatoes I can't handle them all.