Saturday, July 10, 2010

Maters, Watermelons and Mason Jars

There is a small window of time every year that maters and melons are the best. I've had tomatoes from friends and neighbors' gardens in Ca, WV, CO, FL, AL but mine are always mine.  They ain't nothing like growing yo' own groceries...they ALWAYS taste best.

There is some mysticism about growing maters. Ask anyone who grows them.. planting on Good Friday, planting on the waxing or waning of the moon. Everybody does it different...some use Epsom salt, a scoop of lime and a scoop of fertilizer or manure in a hole deep enough to bury half the tomato plant in. Some pour water in the hole, some water the plant in after planting. There is also tomato cage vs staking, pruning issues, cures for blossom end rot and "fire up" wilt...I guess it's whatever works for you makes you an expert.

 I have had varying "luck" with tomatoes...heirloom vs hybrid, determinate vs in determinate...all I want is a good sized red or yellow tomato for mater sammich with mayo, and my favorite salad of tomatoes, cukes, onions marinated in a balsamic vinegar homemade Italian style dressing. Oh, yeah, that's what I' m talking about!

I grew some of my best gardens in the Mid Atlantic States, and canning tomatoes used to be a big deal in WV. I helped Mama can here in Ga years ago. She just had her 92  birthday and still cans, with help. In Floyd, VA, where she grew up long before electricity they had to can to feed 10 mouths through a long winter up there. No wonder they were good had to be!

 In Keyser, we had a small creek beside the house, and a big picnic table under a huge Maple tree. That was the canning spot, cool, scenic, and right beside the garden. Pick  them maters early in the morning while they're cool... and spend the rest of the day canning. The root cellar would slowly fill up with Mason Jars of tomatoes and beans. Hearing those lids click as they got cool in the evening called for a long neck and a tune. All that garden truck looked good on the shelf, and tasted good about Dec.

Watermelons did not do well on the Knobbly Mountain, WV... I tried. Cantaloupes did well. I've never had much luck with watermelons till last year here in Georgia, mainly cause I never really had the room to let em grow like kudzu all over the garden. Last year I waited too late to pick most of them. This year I've been diligent in checking the bottom of the melons. Watermelon  are supposed to turn yellow on the bottom when ripe...that's ONE of the old wives tales about how to tell a ripe watermelon. I know about a dozen more, and I really don't know of a way to tell except to cut it...and eat it up, or feed it to the pigs if it ain't ripe...they got to eat, too.

I planted my mellon in raised rows about 6 inches apart this year, and they seem to do as well and planting them in hills with 6 or seeds and then pulling the weakest. That's the traditional way of planting.mellon, punkins and cubits. My take is even the weakest will give you one fruit...and it'll taste much better than anything at the store or off the roadside stand...cause you grew it YO SELF.

Now, for all y'all that don't have room for a garden at home, check out the internet for container plant varieties, small raised beds, "vertical" gardening, and grow light indoor gardening. It'll always be worth the effort, cause you grew it YO SELF.

Oh, by the way, the picture and the below was taken early one morning  last week as the sun was just creeping into the kitchen. Mason Jars can bring a lot of joy, no matter what color the contents. I'll take any color about January...a good fire in the stove, a good pot of soup and cornbread, and a little John Barleycorn for desert! Makes the nights seem twice as bright and all the days go quicker,,,

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