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Local tomatoes worth the trouble

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I’ve never eaten a tomato better than one grown within sight of my back door. But, since my back door now opens up onto nothing resembling a patch of soil that would produce a hackberry, much less a luscious tomato, I make do with farmer’s market or roadside stand tomatoes.

I’ve never eaten a tomato better than one grown within sight of my back door. But, since my back door now opens up onto nothing resembling a patch of soil that would produce a hackberry, much less a luscious tomato, I make do with farmer’s market or roadside stand tomatoes.

I know a place nearby, in the bowling alley parking lot, where a local farmer sets up every summer and sells tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, peaches and various other fruits and vegetables for a reasonable portion of my grocery money.

The tomatoes and peaches are especially tasty. I don’t buy either in the supermarket as long as they are available at this produce stand. The peaches are not quite as good as the ones I used to buy straight from the orchard in Athens, Georgia, but they are a sight better than the hard-as-a-rock offerings I get in grocery stores.

The melons are good too—sweet, firm and tasty. They have seeds, which I think makes them taste better, but that might just be me. For about $20 I can shop at this stand and get a week’s worth of tomatoes, a melon or two, a bag of peaches and maybe some squash and feel good about the freshness and quality.

I don’t feel overly righteous, however, about how much better it is for the environment than something I’d pick up at grocery store that was grown somewhere out of state. I watched the farmer unload a bunch of watermelons from his pickup a few days ago and wondered at the transportation cost of shipping them in.  He probably had 30 or 40 melons in the bed of his truck and he probably makes two or three 150-mile round trips a week to bring in fresh produce.

That’s not a bad investment. But, based on all the recent reports I’ve seen, it’s cheaper to haul a load of melons up from the Valley or truck tomatoes in from south Florida than it is to grow and transport local.

They have a name for us now, locavores, folks who buy local produce instead of stuff shipped in from California, Florida or Mexico. I’ll admit to being one. I’ll also admit to buying local when possible for only one reason—I do like fresh grown tomatoes.

And not much can beat three juicy slices of tomato, liberally sprinkled with salt and pepper and plopped between two slices of white bread slathered with mayonnaise. That’s one of summer’s best treats and you just can’t find a tomato that good in supermarkets. As a matter of fact, I think it just might be lunch time.

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