Flavor fresh from the farm

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

I've said it before and will say it again - few things in life can compare to the simple, unadulterated pleasure of a fresh, ripe-from-the-vine tomato.

Give me a knife and a dash of salt and I am a happy woman.

 When I was growing up, much of our food came from the farm. Mama and Daddy had a big garden each year down below the number two chicken house, and yes, tomatoes were always part of that garden, along with corn, field peas, snap beans and butter beans, potatoes and more.

Summer suppers were sometimes strictly off the farm: potatoes, sliced thin and fried crisp in a skillet, a bowl of pink-eyed, purple hull peas, a plate of juicy tomato slices and Mama's golden fried chicken.

Some nights we skipped the chicken and simply enjoyed vegetables served with hunk of Mama's tasty cornbread.  Money was short at times but we certainly never went hungry.

Afternoons and evenings were often spent on the back porch, shelling beans and snapping peas in the big metal dish pans kept hanging on the back of the kitchen.

Mama spent many hot, sticky days in the farmhouse kitchen sterilizing jars and filling freezer bags with the bounty of the garden. We got to enjoy those peas, beans and corn year-round, thanks to her efforts.

Blackberries, plucked from bushes growing wild in our pastures, were made into blackberry cobblers. When served warm and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream - well, as an old friend from Talladega used to say, &#8220It was almost good enough to make you want to slap your grandma.”

The goodness of that fruit was also enjoyed year-round, as Mama followed my own dear grandma's recipe for blackberry jelly. On winter mornings, a dollop of flavorful jelly, rich with the taste of summer, was delicious on a warm homemade biscuit (which came out of the stove buttered, my daddy always liked to say. Truth was, Mama was simply quick on the draw when it came to buttering those flaky, homemade treasures).

Pears were turned into my personal favorite, pear preserves in a thick, flavorful syrup, while Aunt Willie Mae's fig trees provided the basic ingredient for the fig preserves my husband still craves.

As the saying goes - it was ALL good.

These days, Benny and I keep it simple. We grow tomatoes and blueberries.

This summer's crop of berries have topped morning breakfast cereal and gone into a mixed berry pie Benny made. Warm and topped with ice cream - heavens, what delicious memories it all brought back.

Many of these berries go into the freezer so we can enjoy summer's bounty long after the leaves have fallen.

Isn't it great to enjoy nature's bounty all year long?

(Now, if we could only find a fresh tomato that truly tasted like a real tomato even in the depths of winter. One can dreamŠ)

Angie Long is Lifestyles reporter for The Greenville Advocate. She can be reached at 382-3111 ext. 132 or via email at angie.long@greenvilleadvocate.com.