by Pettus Read
Got your "maters" planted yet?
That five-word question is a larger than life statement this time of the year in the country-sides and backyards of our state. Its ramifications are as important in this part of the country as "Gentlemen start your engines" is in the automobile racing world. Homegrown tomatoes are a passage from spring into summer and are the result of hopes we have had while drooling over seed catalogs all of those cold winter nights.
Cool temperatures, a stray rabbit and an over abundance of crows this year have slowed my planting of the "Love Fruit" somewhat. But, my extremely strong determination for a juicy "mater" sandwich come hot weather time will not allow any varmint or any weather related circumstance the opportunity to stop my determination to enjoy a gardener's dream creation.
"Mater" season is just around the corner and the annual pilgrimage of going to the local Co-op to find the right tomato plant is now a thing of the past. We have all selected our Whoppers, Big Boys, Jet Stars, Bradleys, Bonnie Selects, Early Girls and whatever you think is the best variety for your family's summer eating pleasure.
They have been lovingly placed in the ground with only the best of fine nutrients added to their surroundings. Each has been enthroned inside a heavy duty cage or placed next to a stake that emphasizes by its size the hopes of an abundant crop.
To those who are not schooled on the correct terminology of what to call those beautiful red juicy fruits, there is a difference between a tomato and a "mater." A "tomato" by some standards is a fruit grown hundreds of miles away in sandy soil and has the consistency of a wet baseball. That is unless it is grown in Tennessee. Local grown tomatoes are fresh and gives the consumer a tomato close to the taste of a homegrown fruit. Tennessee tomato production ranks number 6 nationally and more than 1,248,000 pounds are produced annually.
A "mater" is a bright red, juicy fruit that has had our love and care for several months and is most certainly what you would call a real "homebody." That love and care has involved our nurturing those tiny seeds in our window sills or in a plastic tray already planted in peat pots from the Co-op, to planting the plant in the garden, putting aluminum foil around the stem to keep cutworms away, wrapping that plant with quilts during cold snaps, feeding the plant with only the best fertilizers, watching it grow daily, suckering it, dusting it for bugs, and finally picking a ripe "mater."
Home grown "maters" are what summer is all about. My summer wouldn't be complete without a fresh "mater" sandwich every day or so. There are many ways to make one, but there is only one true country way to serve up your garden delights. A few years back, I gave out my "mater" sandwich recipe to help the "mater" novice create the perfect sandwich. Just in case there is another generation of those who have failed to perfect their own "mater" sandwich, here it is again.
A country "mater" sandwich has to be made in an orderly routine using mayonnaise, white bread (or lite bread as it is called in the country), and a fresh ripe "mater" from the garden.
You place two slices of fresh lite bread on a plate. Next, take a kitchen knife and spread a good amount of mayonnaise on both slices of bread. Make sure the knife hits the sides of the mayonnaise jar so a click can be heard sounding from the jar. This doesn't help the taste of the sandwich, but it reminds you to buy more mayonnaise the next time you are at the store. We are all hoping for a good "mater" season this year and we wouldn't want to run low on mayonnaise.
Next, slice your home grown "mater", avoiding the temptation to swipe a slice for now, into several thick slices. You should not be able to read a newspaper through any of the slices. This helps hold in the juice, and besides, if you wanted thin slices you could have gotten a "tomato" at a restaurant in town.
Add pepper and salt as desired. Place the slices on the lite bread and gently put the pieces of bread together. Ladies may want to cut the sandwich in a triangle, but real "Tennessee mater eaters" like their sandwiches whole to avoid the losing of any juice. Bite into your sandwich and enjoy what summer is all about.
Happy "mater" growing