Tomatoes take on an uncharacteristic importance in the South.
If you add a little bacon and lettuce for variety, some folks, myself included, can come close to living on tomatoes when they are in season.
Just any tomato will not do, they have to be home grown ones picked fresh off the vines that have been carefully tended.
For many years I was a second class tomato gardener because I had to convince them to grow on Canada's east coast.
We often had some very nice tomatoes late in August if were lucky. My mother and my wife's father were both extraordinary tomato gardeners. Of course growing tomatoes near Mount Airy, NC is a little different than growing them along the Bay of Fundy where 70 degrees is a warm summer day.
A few years ago, after moving to Roanoke, VA, I decided to record on my blog how I grow tomatoes in case my kids ever got the fever. My first post on tomatoes was The Spring Tomato Ritual.
The next year I started with The great tomato race is on!. My annual attempt to produce a fourth of July tomato had turned into a race with my good friend Mike who still lives in Lewisville, NC where he and I used to roam the woods as kids while our parents grew tomatoes.
Last year was my first year gardening on the coast. A year's experience is going to help, and I have gone with three varieties this year. One is a 55 day variety so we will see how things stack up this year when the first tomatoes are sliced.
My plants went into the ground on April 3 this year. That is a little over a month earlier than last year's May 5 planting date.
Still for all I know, Mike has heat lamps beside his already. He will not be defeated easily, and I also have picked up a local challenger.
Another friend, Dean, has had his tomato plants in the ground for a while. He is from above the Mason Dixon line so he will have to be watched closely to gauge whether he will be serious competition or not.
We should have a lot of fun, and I will post updates, maybe even photos of the other gardens.
Other gardeners are not the only competition, I also have to battle the tomato horn worms and the fiddler crabs who developed a real taste for tomatoes last year.
That first sandwich in late June (I hope) will be well worth all the effort especially if the vines last into December like they did last year.
This year we ate our last home grown tomato in late January.