Wednesday, April 16, 2014  
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Arnold Dyre
 
Commentary by Arnold Dyre

    As we move into the hot days of a Mississippi summer, there are many of us still waiting for tomatoes to ripen.
    I have had ripe cherry tomatoes for a good number of weeks but have not yet harvested from my plants one of those big-enough-for-one-slice-to-make-a-sandwich tomatoes!
    That does not mean I have not yet had a tomato sandwich. Thanks to my Mississippi State friend Mike O’Brien, who left me to tend to his tomato patch while he went to visit grandchildren, I ate the first two of Mike’s ripe tomatoes. Plus, I have purchased some fine Indianola tomatoes at the Livingston Farmers Market in Madison County, and a kind neighbor lady with a Carthage truck farmer cousin gave me a good mess of nice tomatoes.
    Although not having yet produced on my own a single tomato of the large variety, I have actually been living on tomato sandwiches for several weeks. The last few days, I have resorted to eating cherry tomato sandwiches. They are not bad, but the tomatoes keep falling out of the sandwich!
    Old Clovis tells me not to count tomatoes on the vine. He says, if you count them, they will fall off before they get ripe.
    I surely hope Clovis is wrong because I have been counting and closely watching my tomatoes. Lately, I have been closely watching the suckers, too.
    Suckers occur as new growth in the juncture between an existing limb and the main stem of a tomato plant. It is generally held that suckers should be timely removed to insure a hearty and healthy tomato plant.
    While I pinch off and discard a fair amount of the suckers, I allow some of them to stay on and develop to a size large enough to plant. I then carefully prune off the sucker and put it in rich, moist soil where it will thrive and become a plant itself. It is widely believed that a well-nurtured sucker plant will produce a bigger and better tomato than the parent plant from which it was removed.
    In time, the sucker plants will produce their own suckers. A “son of a sucker” is what I call the new plants that I start from suckers removed from sucker plants. I use suckers and sons of suckers to produce late season tomatoes.
    By July 4th, I will likely eat my first honest-to-goodness-grown-at-my-own-home tomato. Likely, it will take several slices to make a good sandwich but, by the time Ole Miss is proving or disproving that they have a football team, I will be eating sandwiches with big tomatoes from suckers and sons of suckers.
    By Thanksgiving, I might be eating a sucker grandchild tomato!

adyre@comcast.net


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