Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 21, 2017

The season of fresh veggies

By Andy Hallman | Aug 29, 2012

We have to wait all winter to enjoy locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. If you’re like me, you buy as many of them as you can when they’re ripe, because you won’t have fresh ones again until next year.

My family in Pocahontas has a garden in which we have planted peas and tomatoes for many years. We often plant cucumbers and green peppers, too. Every once in awhile a volunteer cantaloupe finds its way into the garden from seeds left in the compost pile. Strangely, the volunteers taste just as good as the cantaloupes for-hire.

Planting peas by hand was always a fun thing to do in the late spring and early summer. We put sticks at the edge of the garden to mark the rows so we’d know where not to step when weeding. Sometimes we would put wooden planks down between the rows so we could weed the garden without getting muddy. My dad oversaw the pea operation and the whole family was responsible for tending it and picking the peas once they ripened.

I remember many summers when we ate peas morning, noon and night. They were like candy to us. When we packed our cooler for vacation, we had to leave space for the bags and bags of peas. We needed something to snack on while we waited in line for the roller coaster.

A few months later we were doing the same exact thing with tomatoes. My dad loved tomatoes so much he found ways to incorporate them not just into every meal but into every dish. Sometimes he made sandwiches that consisted of nothing but tomato slices and mayonnaise.

My favorite tomato dish consists of thinly cut tomato slices topped with cottage cheese and maybe salt and pepper. I love this so much I could eat it every day. And for the month of August, I did. Friends who visited me during this month worried that it was the only thing my parents let me eat. The truth was that we grew so many tomatoes that I felt a duty to eat them so they wouldn’t go to waste (and also because it meant fewer tomatoes we would have to can).

A few years ago, after I had moved to Washington and my sisters were in college, my dad went crazy and planted 16 tomato plants. There was no way he and Mom could eat all that produce, no matter how many tomato sandwiches he made. When I saw him that autumn, he admitted that he threw away a shameful number of tomatoes. Luckily, they canned enough tomatoes to feed the whole town the next time there’s a blizzard, if such a thing still exists.

The only thing I don’t like about growing so many vegetables is that I get tired of eating them. I love sweet corn, too, but eating it twice a day for weeks is sometimes more than I can stomach. You have to mix in some Cheetos occasionally. I plan to visit my parents over Labor Day weekend, and I’m sure they’ll have a few tomatoes left in the garden. We’ll see how many tomato-cottage cheese meals I can down in three days because I’m about to reach my limit for the year.

Comments (1)
Posted by: David Faden | Sep 22, 2012 19:28

Thanks for the inspiration to eat some more tomatoes! We've got a bunch waiting to be picked on our porch. That cottage cheese dish sounds simple and tasty.

I wonder what's changed in terms of what vegetables people grow in their gardens over the past hundred years. Not even sure how you'd track that though. Are any of the big vegetable seed suppliers in Iowa?

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