My grandfather's garden...
The link is to a great piece about my grandfather's last garden. He and Grandma are selling their place in Iowa and plan to live in Florida full-time.
About a month ago Mom and I made a quick trip down to see my grandparents. We sat in their small and slightly formal living room and ate the best corn on the cob and BLTs I've ever had.
Nobody can grow tomatoes quite like my grandfather. They were fat, deep red and incredibly juicy. Every slice was like a hunk of a sunny Iowa day sliding around in my mouth. Biting into a BLT brings back memories of chasing fireflies, swimming in the Slater pool and smelling the oil they spread on Slater's side-streets for their alternate-year 4th of July celebration.
My mom got divorced when I was about 8. I was old enough to know that money was tight, but that the divorce was a good thing. I was also old enough to know that my grandfather grew extra rows of garden and that Grandpa and Grandma would use their weekends to bring us fresh vegetables in the cities. In the fall, Grandma would bring canned tomatoes, frozen corn and the most amazing freezer jam. I knew that, although we didn't have much money, we weren't poor -- we had grandparents in Iowa that loved us enough to bring us vegetables when we needed them.
As an adult, I've looked long and hard for tomatoes that compare to Grandpa's. I have yet to find any that come close -- even locally grown farmer's market tomatoes just don't compare. I suppose that's because all of them are missing the secret ingredient -- love. My Grandpa gardened because he loves his family and he loves the land. He loves the challenge of outsmarting the pests and the weather and he relishes continuing the family farm tradition on a large lot in a small Iowa town.
Soon, all that will be left of my grandfather's garden will be a dozen or so jars of canned tomatoes sitting on the shelf in my kitchen... plus, of course, my memory of those tomatoes.