The best of times for BLT lovers


These tiny yellow blossoms are the beginnings of a plump, juicy home grown tomatoes. They will make a BLT you won't believe.

These tiny yellow blossoms are the beginnings of plump, juicy home grown tomatoes. They will make a BLT you won't believe. These are back-yard blooms.

After a tortuous winter of choking down mushy,  flat-tasting red blobs erroneously identified as tomatoes, the advent of Arkansas home-grown tomatoes is a time to celebrate. Even then, the four month wait from tiny tomato bloom to a big bad bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich  is an agonizingly long wait, testing the patience of  determined BLT lovers. This glory story for tomato aficionados started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. See those pictures and grab some tomato lore by clicking here, a very cool thing to do.

Progress in the back yard. Blooms and big brothers (sisters?) Someone set me straight.

Progress in the back yard. Blooms and big brothers (sisters?) Someone set me straight.

While the backyard plants you see above are puttering along, there are some serious tomatoes nearing market readiness near Hermitage, Arkansas, the tomato epi-center of Bradley County, Arkansas, legendary for the tasty tomatoes grown within its borders. The field you see below belongs to Randy Clanton of Hermitage, a second generation tomato farmer who knows his stuff.

One of Randy Clanton's tomato fields near Hermitage, Arkansas. Randy, a second-generation tomato farmer is reknowned for producing tomatoes that tast good.

One of Randy Clanton's tomato fields near Hermitage, Arkansas. Randy, a second-generation tomato farmer is renowned for producing tomatoes that taste good.

Although not visible until you move some leaves around, Randy Clanton’s robust plants you see above are full of tomatoes about three weeks away from harvest. Take a glimpse at the camouflaged tomatoes here.

Tomato onslaught

For several weeks, these plants go crazy churning out their red globes of gastronomical delight. Harvesting at just the right time is a daily routine. While blooms and babies are maturing at the top of the plant, ripe fruit is ready to pick at the bottoms, a picture of natural efficiency. Legions of salivating fans anxiously await their arrival in produce sections around the nation.

Early tomato farming experiences

Randy Clanton recalls a time when his father cultivated his tomato crop with a mule, fed on corn grown in the elder Clanton’s fields. “He told me  on some of the first tomatoes he grew,  he borrowed $200 at the bank for three acres of tomatoes. By the time he was able to start picking and selling his crop, he still had $40 of his loan left, unexpended.” Randy’s friend, Bradley county businessman Kenneth Farrell, a former tomato farmer, revealed his first experience at tomato farming. “The year I finished high school, I had an acre and a quarter of tomatoes I raised. I had $125  in the crop. It was 1958 which was a ‘high’ year for tomato prices. After all my expenses, I was able to go to the Ford place and buy the best car they  had.”

Times have changed

Randy and Kenneth agreed that the price of tomatoes has not grown proportionally with what it takes to produce them. However, on Randy’s farm, it is easy to see that good farming practices and due diligence are the key, a good thing for us on the BLT end of this process.

What’s that large yellow orb in the sky?

lot

Liquid lingers in south Arkansas. My thanks to Pat Patterson for the shot of me in my truck. Pat's wife, Darlene was riding with me. At this point, she was not trembling with fear and trepidation, but those conditions were not far off.

For the first time in what feels like months, there is no rain predicted in these environs for the next seven days. Nevertheless, the remnants of thunderstorms past linger in our neighborhoods. I joined my friends William L. “Pat” Patterson and his lovely spousal unit, Darlene in visiting our mutual friends, Jack and Linda Newbury in their home at Felthensal AR. Felthensal has been described by some as a small drinking community with a fishing problem. There may be some credence to this rumor. The community sits on the banks of the Felthensal pool formed by the Felthensal Lock and Dam on the Ouachita River in south Arkansas. The local waters are a fine fishing resource. In winter months, hunters descend on the community in droves. We took a swing around the area, looking at still flooded parking lots among other things.

Boys will still be boys. Reckon any girls ever do this? Hmmm.

Boys will still be boys. Reckon any girls ever do this? Hmmm.

Later on in the day, I found our next sign. This time as a two sided target. One side’s pelting is punctuated by exit wounds.

Thanks for dropping by,
Joe

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One Response

  1. Well know … I didn’t know southern Arkansas had the first tomatoes to hit the market.

    Although I eat tomatoes, I’m not one of those who go crazy in the summer with the fact the fresh ones can be found – but that’s ok. However, I am impressed with how far along those are in the pics. Heck, ours were just planted within the past 2 weeks!

    In terms of the BLT, yes … the fresh ones make that sandwich better.

    PS: Sorry I’m late Joe … busy week.

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