July 2015 Country Kitchen
Few fruits and vegetables evoke as much excitement as the tomato, which is, by the way, scientifically considered a fruit, but ruled a vegetable for practical purposes in an 1887 Supreme Court case.
Tomatoes are arguably the star of summer farmers markets in the South, and gardeners have all kinds of tricks for growing them at home.
Perhaps the tomato’s popularity can be credited to its versatility. Whether you’re cooking Italian, Mexican or down-home Southern cuisine, your recipe probably calls for tomatoes. But a tomato certainly doesn’t need to be dressed up to be enjoyed — true tomato lovers know slices of ripe, juicy tomato are best with just a little salt and pepper.
Geneva County’s Beverly Aplin of Slocomb, the tomato capital of the South, knows tomatoes.
“I married into a tomato family,” she said. “My husband’s family has been growing tomatoes since 1952. At one time, we were growing as much as 150 acres of tomatoes. Now, we grow about 30 different fruits and vegetables, but tomatoes are our big crop.”
Aplin said she leaves the farming to her husband and adult sons who work on the farm, but she and the grandkids run the farmers market side of the business.
“We do about eight little farmers markets per week, and the grandchildren go to three or four of them with me,” she said. “I think it has been very educational for them. My 11-year-old granddaughter has been making change at farmers markets since she was 5 years old, and people can’t believe she can wait on a customer like she does. They all interact with the public very naturally.”
As soon as the weather starts getting warm in the spring, people begin asking for tomatoes, Aplin said.
“People are always very excited about tomatoes,” she said. “When you’re buying them, remember the peak season is in June and July, and just make sure to get a good, firm, non-blemished tomato.”