When I sit down to read the Sanford Herald every day, one of the highlights for me is to read the “Good Afternoon” column. I always find them entertaining and informative.
On June 21, I read Bill Horner Jr’s story about the “First Picked Tomato Contest” and felt compelled to write a rebuttal on behalf of the growing number of Yankees in the South.
I moved to the Sanford area in June 1985 from a very small town in upstate New York. Although I feel it was a good decision and have truly enjoyed living here the past 10 years, I must confess that I still am, and probably always will be, a Yankee at heart.
I read, with a few chuckles, the stories of each winner (and the loser) and was captivated to see they were able to pick and enjoy their tomatoes as early as May 26. My hometown is in the infamous “Buffalo Snow Belt”, so the personal garden planting season begins during the Memorial Day weekend (and then sometimes “at risk”). What prompted me to write was the “Special Mention” of John Donnell of Goldston and the comment “Everyone knows them Northerners don’t know beans about tomatoes.”
First let me comment that I took absolutely no offense with this comment (in fact, since I’m a notorious plant murderer, I related to it and found it quite funny), but I did feel that “us Northerners” deserve equal time once in a while. I hope this story will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that “some” Northerners do know beans about tomatoes.
My grandfather is Marlin Freeman, 86, of Albion, NY. He has been called “the man with the greenest thumb since the jolly green giant himself” because if Grandpa touches a seed or the roots of a plant, it will not only grow, but it will be the biggest and the best. His tomato plants, which amaze all who see them, grow taller than he is at 5’8″ and produce bushels of the largest tomatoes you’ve ever seen. As a child, a breakfast favorite was to place a thick slice of tomato on a piece of toast with a little mayonnaise – we called it “tomatoes on toast”. If the tomatoes came from the store or someone else’s garden, it would take more than one slice to cover the toast; however, if the tomatoes came from Grandpa’s garden, one slice was always larger than the toast.
I know what you’re thinking, if Grandpa’s tomatoes are that large, they must be mostly seeds inside! Not true – his tomatoes are firm, meaty, full of rich flavor, and have very little seeds. Grandpa is very proud of his tomatoes, dispite the fact that he never has nor ever will eat one.
Grandpa is often asked, “What is your secret, what do you do different than ‘Neighbor Joe’?” He just answers with, “No secret, just start with good plants, a little fertilizer and cow compost, water them when they need it, and don’t fuss over them. If you want tomatoes ‘today’, go to the store; if you want good home grown tomatoes, you gotta be patient.”
Albion is located near Lake Ontario. The Erie Barge Canal goes right through the center of town and among its many other historic sites is an old stage coach route called Ridge Road (now a main road). Along “the Ridge” people put up fruit and vegetable stands in front of their houses with the harvests from their gardens. I can attest that there are a great many of “them Northerners” who not only “know beans about tomatoes”, they produce some of the best fruits and vegetables in the country. Although in Sanford there are many places one can go to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from the farmers, I truly miss the front yard stands along “the Ridge”. I make it a point to visit them whenever I am in the area.
Thanks for giving a “Yankee at Heart” a little “equal time”.