Thank goodness for vegetable stands in Bainbridge

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My brother loves to “stalk” Dempsey Dumpsters. That means that he likes to visit those county metal trash bins and find imagined treasures. It’s his play upon the old saying “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” My sister likes to shop at yard sales. It’s a little cleaner than dumpster diving but based upon the same principle.

Their brother, that’s me, has his own quixotic quirk. I like to visit vegetable stands.

All it takes to interest me is a sign that begins with “home-grown.” I am always looking for tomatoes that lay deliciously between two pieces of white bread that have been liberally bathed in real mayonnaise. No Lite, please.

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Thankfully, here in Decatur and our surrounding counties, these summer months provide us with plenty of vegetable stands. There are no two alike; that’s what makes it so interesting. Some are simply four poles with a canvas top. Others are larger and part of farming operations that are much more than a one-owner, roadside stand.

One that I have visited often is even air-conditioned! That’s not the only reason I like to visit, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that there is a respite from the heat and gnats. Basically I like them all and, especially, like to talk to those who have borne the brunt of the hard work and heat that it takes to grow vegetables in South Georgia.

I like many kinds of vegetables. As I mentioned, I am, particularly, drawn to the tomatoes, but also like watermelons. I have grown a little lazy and like the seedless variety, but find that the larger, seeded melons are tastier. I also wish that I knew how to “thump” one so that I always bought a watermelon that is firm and crisp in its heart.

Tomatoes and watermelons are magnets for me, but I also like to see the different kinds of peas. Many stands have shelled peas and, since I have a little experience in growing peas for the market, I like talking about the pink-eye purple hulls, the sadandies,  and the Cream-whatever numbers. Actually, I like all the kinds of vegetables at the stand.

Besides the stands looking differently, the veggies taste differently. It could be the varieties or it could be the soil in which they are grown.

Many of you know that I grew up in adjoining Mitchell County. In parts of that county, many decades ago, the tomato was a huge money crop.

Only one or two farmers remain committed to tomatoes. In the old days, the tomatoes were grown without the benefit of plastic or irrigation and they seemed to have a taste with more acid.

We grew a row or two in our garden and we used the tomatoes for cleaning our hands.

We also ate them, of course, but when coming in from the field after working in tobacco, we would jump off the tailgate of the truck and reach down and grab a really ripe tomato.

Our hands and arms would be covered in tobacco “gunk.” Soap needed help with those hands.

We would grab that tomato, crush it in our hands, and vigorously rub all the insides over our hands and arms. It did not smell all that great, but the tomato served as a wonderful cleansing agent. We washed the tomato juice off with that gritty brand of soap named Lava.

Thanks to all of you who work so hard to bring us delicious, home-grown vegetables.