This is the time of the year that people often see vegetable stands by the roadside, usually next to the farmer’s field. Some farmers plant large quantities of vegetables and advertise for customers to pick their own at a cheaper price.
On Thursday afternoons, farmers sell produce in Hinesville’s Bradwell Park. Perhaps the produce stand most remembered in Hinesville was the one operated by John and Margaret Parker Boatright, who lived in the Elim community. They had a large stand at the corner across from McDonalds on MLK Drive for many years and had a booming business. John grew the vegetables that he sold and enjoyed farming until his death.
There are two large produce stands between Ludowici and Glennville now, and the Glennville Farmers Market is active at this time of the year.
Of course, many families still grow their own gardens. I gave up because the deer enjoy munching everything we plant in a garden but we do not want to fence it in. The satisfaction and exercise one gets from growing a vegetable garden is great. I want to share an article that I wrote about 15 years ago about gathering produce.
“Whatcha gonna do tomorrow? Wanna go with me to pick some ’maters?” my sister-in-law, Patsy, asked me Friday night. “They’re just $5 for a five-gallon bucket full and you pick ’em. The field’s just off Highway 301 on the other side of the new Glennville prison. I’ve already had some and they are so good!”
No matter what other plans I may have had for Saturday, they were put aside when I heard the tomato patch calling my name. Of course, I wanted to go because I always enjoyed picking fresh produce of almost any kind. I usually can pick more in a few minutes than I can pay for, except garden peas.
We decided on the time I would meet her in Donald, a small community in Long County, the next morning.
Early Saturday morning, I dressed in a T-shirt, blue jeans and old shoes to wear in the fields. I called my children and asked if they wanted any tomatoes. That was a useless question to ask. Of course they wanted a part of any fresh produce I had. I gathered my buckets and a couple of pasteboard boxes and left Walthourville for Donald.
I arrived at Patsy’s home and she was ready to go, but first she wanted to show me some old magazines her daughter-in-law had brought to show her. Someone had bought a home, and the closet was filled with old magazines in excellent shape.
I looked at the old Farm and Ranch and Good Housekeeping from 1951. It was amusing to read the advertisements for the new and modern telephones, electric stoves, fancy lawn mowers and Studebaker trucks. There were recipes for blackberry cobblers and jelly. Back then, blackberries were fruits from a thorny vine, not fancy, expensive cell phones! I could have spent hours looking at the magazines, but time was passing swiftly and we had a mission to accomplish before it got too hot.
In a short time, we passed by the prison and saw the sign by the field gate: “Tomatoes — you pick ’em.” We drove through the field and chose an alley to drive down about halfway. Many other people were bending over in the field filling buckets. I wanted three buckets and Patsy wanted two. Carefully, we selected some green ones, half-ripe, and fully ripe ones. I do not like the really red tomatoes; I prefer the firmer ones. But we do enjoy fried green tomatoes.
It did not take long to fill our buckets. The bushes were loaded with many large tomatoes. As I reached under a few of the ripe tomatoes, my fingers went through them because they were rotten on the bottom. I thought about having a tomato war with Patsy but thought was all I had. I could not stand a rotten tomato thrown on me today, but maybe 45 years ago it would have been fun!
Patsy wanted some tomatoes to can, but I did not want to can any. I prefer to buy mine from the store already canned. I remember Mama canning hundreds of jars when we lived on the farm behind St. Thomas Church. She had to get them from our neighbor, Raymond Nobles, Sheriff Cecil Nobles’ father.
For some reason, our tomatoes spoiled when canned. Difference in the soil, I guess.
There seemed nothing better than to get a pint of canned tomatoes from the corncrib, open them, sprinkle a little salt and a lot of black pepper and eat them straight from the jar. We ate a lot of rice or grits and tomatoes.
Today, I use very little of them because my husband does not like stewed tomatoes on his rice. Mama sometimes put two beaten eggs in the stewed tomatoes for some reason and I did not eat them that way.
We loaded our five buckets in the trunk of the car and drove across the road to pay the farmers where they were waiting under the oak tree collecting money.
As it was still early in the morning, we decided to head for the peach orchards near Reidsville and pick a few ripe peaches. As we drove, we talked about the tobacco patch we saw in full bloom along the road. Then we saw two fishponds glistening white with all the water lilies blooming on top of the water. They made a beautiful sight. I bet there were a lot of fish under the lily pads.
We recalled how we had traveled this road so many days in 1965 and ’66 while working at the sewing factory. I am glad that tobacco and work both are things of the past for us.
We stopped at the camper, parked at the peach orchard entrance and inquired about the prices and places to pick. They gave us two half-gallon tote bags.
The peaches cost 30 cents a pound if we picked them and 40 cents per pound if they picked them.
We followed the road around to the back orchard. The trees were loaded and so pretty with all the ripe peaches on them.
We walked between the rows and selected the first one and then another. We had to sample them to see if they were even worth picking. They were. It did not take us long to fill our bags. There were many other people picking and having a great time in the orchard. We carried our bags back to the camper for weighing and just had to stop and sample another one. By now, our hands were a mess. They were stained with green tomatoes and now had sweet peach juice all over them.
We each had almost 20 pounds of peaches. We paid for them and the lady gave each of us a small paper with peach recipes on them. They seemed good, but I had my special one that I was ready to make — fresh peach ice cream. Just thinking of it and smelling the peaches made my mouth water. We put them in the back seat to keep from bruising them, and they made the car smell so peachy good!
Back in Donald, we took time to eat hot dogs before going to the garden and picking some snap beans. It did not take but a few minutes before we had a small bucket full for me to take home.
Naturally, I had to have some new Irish potatoes to cook with the beans. So Patsy filled a bag with potatoes that my brother, Tommy, had dug the week before. Finally, I headed back to Walthourville with my fresh produce.
I unloaded all the tomatoes, peaches, beans and potatoes. Then I washed the beans and took the opportunity to sit in the rocking chair and rest while I snapped the beans. Yes, I was tired.
That evening after the food was blessed, I told my husband that I did not believe anyone in the world could have a better supper than the one we were eating.
I had cooked the fresh green beans with some new potatoes, local Silver Queen creamed corn, sliced pink tomatoes, cucumbers, Glennville onion and crispy fried chicken. No, I did not have to catch, kill and butcher the chicken. It was bought from the store.
There was a plate of fresh peaches on the table. In a day or two, I would make a churn of peach ice cream. This Saturday had been very satisfying and productive and took me back to the days of my childhood on the farm.
Fresh peach ice cream recipe
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
4 cups fresh chopped peaches
1 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups whole milk
Mix peaches and condensed milk together. Add flour and beat. Add vanilla and whole milk. Mix well. Pour in electric ice cream churn and freeze according to directions. Makes one gallon.