FLOYD INGRAM: It's Tomato Time in the Delta

By FLOYD INGRAM / THE PRESS REGISTER,

I've always been told it takes 60 days from the time you plant a tomato to the time you can start harvesting fruit.

If you do the math that means those of you that planted the end of April should be serving bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches this week.

Yes, I know some of you have been eating tomatoes for some time. You are the folk who plant your vines in late winter and carefully cover and uncover if frost threatens.

I don't have time for that.

But I did planted 16 tomato plants, six squash, six cucumbers and an old envelope of daisy seeds this year.

I’ve lived in the hills of Mississippi, the plains of Texas and in the corner of Tennessee, but I have never seen plants perform like they do in this Delta dirt!

We are covered up with tomatoes and cucumbers and will be glad to share if you give us a call.

Look at my tomatoes

There is something very satisfying in planting something small and green in the ground and watching it bear fruit.

I can't tell you how many times I have had people call the newspaper and ask me to come out and take a picture of something they have grown in their garden with their own green thumbs. It's part of the job I like best.

I've seen tomatoes that were so tall they were picked with a step ladder. I once took a photo of a man who planted one in a barrel next to his house and it grew so tall he had to get on the roof to pick tomatoes.

I once saw a tomato, that when sliced in the middle, covered a dinner plate. That tomato measured 10-inches across and weighed almost two-pounds.

I've got kinfolk that grow hanging tomatoes and they have learned how to plant and care for them in a fashion where they have homegrown tomatoes as late as September.

Mississippi Delta dirt

Agriculture has always been big business in these parts.

This state grew from West to East as pioneers first settled on the rich lands bordering the Mississippi River.

In the heyday of king cotton, Coahoma County was one of the richest counties in the country. And I would like to point out Delta cotton still carries royal status in markets around the world.

I have heard people say the dirt of the Mississippi Delta is second only to the soil of the Nile River Delta as a resource that profoundly shaped history.

Delta dirt isn’t just two-inches of topsoil like it is in Texas. It’s not red, sandy and poor like the hills of Northeast Mississippi. It’s not hard and fine like the yellow loess of Tennessee.

As our society gets further and further away from the land, we need to remember some of the simple things we are blessed with and found right under our feet.

Southern tradition

Growing tomatoes in the backyard is a Southern tradition.

My grandmother was the one that taught me tomatoes were a “moon vine” and needed to be planted the weekend before Easter.

That bit of green knowledge was passed down to her by her grandmother in a day and age when people were a little closer to the earth and watched the sun, stars and seasons a little closer.

Her logic was the tomatoes would be given a little boost by the full moon and grow with additional vigor.

I recently spotted something on the Internet backing up her claim.

As our culture goes to bytes of information rather than conversation, it's good to know some of those old ways still ring true.

But let’s not get too nostalgic or make like life too complex. I think most of us just like them on bacon and tomato sandwiches.

Floyd Ingram is the Editor of your Clarksdale Press Register and prosperous Mississippi Delta tomato planter. Tomatoes can be picked up at 128 East Second Street from 8-5 Monday through Friday. Call 662-627-2201 to set up an appointment.

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