Thursday, August 2, 2012

In Celebration of Homegrown Tomatoes




“Home grown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes. 
What would life be like without homegrown tomatoes? 
Only two things that money can’t buy, 
That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.” 

An excerpt from a John Denver song, words & music by Guy Clark.

No truer words were ever spoken. Who wants to live without true love and homegrown tomatoes?

Summer is my favorite time of the year, primarily because I love homegrown tomatoes. I grew up in the small town of Warren, located in Bradley County in south Arkansas. Bradley County’s slogan was “The land of tall pines and pink tomatoes.” Bradley County grows a special variety of a pink tomato appropriately called the Bradley County Pink. In 1987 the South Arkansas vine ripe Pink Tomato was named the official state fruit and vegetable of Arkansas.

Logo courtesy of the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival


In 1956 a group of town merchants and members of the Chamber of Commerce, which included my father, created an event to celebrate the tomato industry and help promote business in the area. The Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival was born. Parades and a beauty pageant crowning Miss Pink Tomato were added the second year. The annual All-Tomato luncheon showcased the best tomato recipes of local cooks. Since then the celebration has grown into a weeklong affair and is one of the oldest continuous running festivals in Arkansas. This year the Pink Tomato Festival celebrated its 56th year.

Tomatoes & I have a history. My father was President of the Fair & Marketing Association, which sponsored the Pink Tomato Festival, about the same time the Festival got its start. One night he came home for dinner and told us that a member of the association had a cousin named Johnny from nearby Kingsland who was an up and coming singer for Sun Records in Memphis and he was willing to sing at the rodeo during the Festival. It just happened to be the same time that Elvis Presley was also recording for Sun Records. Johnny brought a friend of his along to perform at the rodeo, Jerry Lee Lewis, who had just recorded two hits for Sun -Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On and Great Balls of Fire. By now you know I'm talking about the legendary Johnny Cash. It was on that night in the fifties that people in my small home town got a glimpse into the beginning days of Rock & Roll and I was in a front row seat.

The Broadway hit Million Dollar Quartet was inspired by the legendary Rock and Roll recording session at Sun Records that included Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and of course the King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley.


In honor homegrown tomatoes, I have two simple recipes that showcase the rich, sweet flavors of vine-ripened tomatoes. Our friend and fellow blogger Larry from Big Dude’s Eclectic Ramblings and his wife Bev have shared two of their homegrown tomatoes from their garden with us today.





The yellow one’s name is Persimmon and the green striped one is a Green Zebra. I picked up the dark wine colored one, a Cherokee Purple, along with a small red heirloom, at our local farmer’s market to complete the color combination.

An easy way to serve tomatoes is to arrange some slices on a platter, drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, liberally sprinkle with crunchy sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and top with a few leaves of fresh basil from your herb garden. It doesn’t get much simpler or better than that.




If you want to get a little fancier, take the same arrangement of tomatoes and instead of using the olive oil & vinegar, top them with a southern pea salad.




I normally use black-eyed peas for this salad, but again thanks to local homegrown gardens, I was able to find fresh purple hull peas, another great memory from my childhood in the south. Purple hull peas are a cousin of the black-eyed peas and sometimes called “cow peas” or “southern peas.” When I was growing up, my mother bought bushel baskets of unshelled peas from local farmers and everyone in my family sat around and shelled peas into newspapers in their lap, probably watching Ozzie and Harriet. I shudder to think about how many bushels of peas I shelled as a child. The thing I remember most about purple hull peas is that they stain your fingers a light shade of purple and I can assure you, very embarrassing for a teenager at school the next day.

I’ve used ham in this recipe, but feel free to leave it out for a vegetarian dish. Black-eyed peas are normally in this, but if you ever run across purple hull peas, be sure to give them a try. Most people think they’re more flavorful than black-eyed peas.




Southern Pea Salad, sometimes called Southern Caviar
From My Carolina Kitchen

1 can black eyed peas, drained & rinsed well (or cooked purple hull peas)
1/2 cup (more or less) lean cooked ham steak, cut into ½” pieces
1 shallot, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Pinch of sugar
Dash of Tabasco (or to taste)
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Crunchy sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
Minced scallions, including green tops
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded & diced, optional
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Place pea in a mixing bowl and set aside. Sauté the ham in a non-stick skillet until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Let cool for a moment and then add it to the peas. Add shallot and stir. Measure olive oil, vinegar, sugar, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, and salt & pepper in jar with a tightly fitting lid and shake well to make vinaigrette. Toss the vinaigrette over peas and ham and stir to coat. Add the scallions and jalapeno pepper. Refrigerate for a couple of hours for flavors to develop.  Serve at room temperature. Easily doubled or tripled. Great served with sliced homegrown tomatoes.

Plain or fancy, there’s nothing in the world like homegrown tomatoes.




These recipes will be linked to Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Seasonal Sunday at The Tablescaper, Southern Sundays at Slice of Southern, Summer Salad Sunday at Easy Natural Food, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.


68 comments:

  1. So beautiful and appetizing! What a scrumptious way of serving them.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. What a great story. Beautiful variety of tomatoes and I love them anyway but the simple prep of sliced with oil, vinegar, s&p can't be beat to really enjoy the homegrown taste.

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  3. Your post has made my morning! There's nothing more comforting than having tomatoes in various hues and shapes lining the kitchen windows. We love them in their purest form but the salad looks and sounds delicious. I'd love to frame your lovely dish of tomatoes. Now I'm picturing you listening to Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis perform at the fair. Lucky girl.

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  4. I find the colors alone so appetizing! I wish a squirrel or whatever had not eaten my home grown tomatoes:(

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  5. Gorgeous colors and pics! Nothing says summer like fresh tomatoes, they're one of my favorite seasonal treats-enjoy! Fun story about the festival and Johnny:@)

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  6. Sam - your dishes are all works of art and I'm sure they tasted as good as they look. What a great story about the festival and music by two soon-to-be legends. I grow purple hull peas on occasion and may have some in the freezer to try this dish. Thanks for the mention and glad you enjoyed the maters - we're making juice again today from our paste tomatoes after two runs (7 qt. each) of tomato sauce earlier in the week. Now I'm off to research the Bradley County Pinks.

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  7. Oh dear, such colourful tomatoes mix up and homegrown even better. Slurpppp... I enjoy growing my own vegetables too. So much fun watching them grow.
    Hope you're having a great day.
    Blessings
    Kristy

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  8. The pea salad sounds wonderful! I love home grown tomatoes and it is always fun learning new ways to prepare them.

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  9. This is definitely my kind of dish Sam. IEach day I wander over to my garden to see if there is any progress in my tomatoes.

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  10. I have about 200 vine-ripened tomatoes on my kitchen counter as I type this comment! Your photos are beautiful and I like the recipes... thanks for sharing. Now i have to google pink tomatoes...

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  11. I'm all over the tomatoes in their purist simplicity with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Nothing could be finer!

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  12. Those tomatoes look so delicious...what a fabulous summer dish... xv

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  13. I've never heard of a Pink Tomato---now I need to try one. I love your unusual 'take' on these gorgeous tomatoes, the beans and ham turn them into a hearty, but still summery and fresh, meal, love it!

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  14. This looks delicious, my tomatoes are at last just starting to ripen :) I have yellow and red. Diane

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  15. QUE RICOS SON LOS TOMATES DE ESTACIÓN!!!
    Estupenda ENSALADA AMIG@S "-"

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  16. Both simple and fancy versions are fantastic! My tomato plants ain't going well...still small and green. Weather just doesn't cooperate at all this year...a cold summer with too much rain.

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  17. You are so right, there is nothing like a homegrown tomato! I live for summer so that I can enjoy a thick slab of tomato with my dinner!

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  18. Your plate of tomatoes looks like a piece of art work, gorgeous and very delicious!

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  19. Hi Sam,
    I have featured your beautiful post and tomatoes on my Face Book Page today with a link back to your post.

    I really enjoyed reading about The Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival, it must have been so much fun, and all those wonderful tomatoes, what a history. Both your recipe's are just fabulous, we will sure enjoy both, especially the one with the Black Eyed Peas, I can't wait to try it.

    Hope you are having a great week and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

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  20. oh wow...definitely could be called caviar.
    your recipes and pictures do those wonderful beautiful garden tomatoes justice!!

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  21. Wow! Never heard those lyrics from JD! Thanks! And I don't think there's anything "plain" about a homegrown tomato! It's both a recipe and a cookbook unto itself!

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  22. Hi Sam,
    Whenever I hear the words home grown tomato, I think of this song by John Denver. As a southern girl myself,I well remember shelling peas in my lap and how good they tasted when Mother cooked them My father grew the best tomatoes every year and we ate well in the summer months. I am going to try the pea salad.

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  23. love this and beautiful salad and pictures great job both of you, I want to go to that festival

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  24. Don't those tomatoes just create the most gorgeous picture??!! I can almost taste them through my screen. Yum.

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  25. I once had vine ripened tomatoes in Italy that were so sweet I thought the hostess had sprinkled them in sugar and let them soak over night. I have never forgotten how deliciously sweet they were.
    PS Thanks for voting for me Sam!

    Melissah

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  26. What a coincedense! I have a lot of home grown tomatoes & wanted to make a lovely & simple tomato salad & here is this tasty post! I love the southern pea salad on top too!
    i am so going to make this today, as a lovely lunch! thank you so much, Sam!

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  27. What glorious color you've shared with us, Sam. I've never had the pea salad and am looking forward to making it. Have a wonderful weekend. Blessings...Mary

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  28. This has caught my eye at several parties!! I love how the colors POP! And I'm sure it tastes very delicious!! I'm going to start following you too and hope you will come by and do the same :-)

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  29. Sam, I'm relieved to see that Linky is working now. Your photos are beautiful!

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  30. Sam - you made me laugh so hard - you and my husband always singing that song! He loves his tomatoes and gives his plants lots of love. Your plate is beautiful. Simple pleasures are the best!

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  31. Wow - I just "discovered" your blog & it's beautiful. I look forward to spending more time perusing your recipes.

    Have a lovely weekend.

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  32. My hubby can't live w/o tomatoes and every year makes futile attempts to grow them in our blazing hot Carolina sun. The best tomatoes we ever grew were in New Jersey, the Garden State. The tomatoes in North Carolina are so disappointing, even the farmers can't grow them. The nights are just too warm. Tomatoes need hot days and cool nights. All that said, the tomatoes in your photos look mouthwatering, and I would love to taste some. Thanks, too, for that interesting background info. Your posts are always so interesting, Sam.

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  33. Tonight, my husband is grilling a seasoned ground beef patty. No bun. All I want are fresh homegrown sliced tomatoes and some steak sauce. Bliss. We grow our own tomatoes, and there's nothing like it! This is so colorful and beautiful!

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  34. Hello Sam

    I love the variety of tomatoes you used. I also loved the story of Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. I saw Jerry Lee Lewis in concert in Sydney, Australia, where I lived, in 1969. I shall never forget him. There was no one like him. Then the following week I saw the Beach Boys and it was spectacular too.

    Have a great weekend

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  35. Those tomato photos look delicious! When I grow peas, it is always pink-eye,purple hull peas. Alas, the rabbits love them too and ruined a whole crop last year, discouraging me from planting them this year. Our place is over-run with rabbits.

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  36. Delicious looking salad Sam! I love the addition of the peas too, it makes it a stick to your ribs summer meal without being heavy! The pink tomato story is great....Johnny Cash....tell me, did you enter the Miss Pink Tomato contest?

    Have a lovely weekend!

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  37. Johnny Cash! I'm jealous. Also, how did you like the movie, Walk The Line? I loved it.

    As for tomatoes, since last summer my tomato plants were a miserable disappointment, I'm on strike this year and grew sweet peas instead;). I'll surely snap up the Molino Creek 'maters at Whole Foods, and probably eat them with mozzarella di bufalo. Your recipe is very intriguing, however.

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  38. Can't beat southern caviar and tomato season is the best! I'd love you to join Southern Sundays linky party with your excellent recipes! Hope to see you there, the party starts tomorrow. www.asliceofsouthern.blogspot.com

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  39. Beautiful and delicious! I had a homegrown Cherokee Purple Sandwich for lunch today. And I have to tell you, I've has out of town guests this week and I made your cherry/pistachio salad. We loved it so much, I made it again the next night.

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  40. Sam, I really enjoyed your lovely story of growing up in Arkansas! Such wonderful memories!
    My garden is now producing quite a few tomatoes. I’m always looking for ways to use them up…your salad is now on my list! Beautiful!!

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  41. Sam, the summer tomato photos are stunning. I can't even describe the taste that fresh summer tomatoes brings-it takes so few ingredients to make them rock.

    Love, love the southern caviar that adorns the tomatoes. Beautiful.

    Velva

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  42. What a fantastic story! How lucky for you to get to see Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis at the start of a great new era of music! And the tomatoes are just gorgeous!

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  43. Those tomatoes are beautiful and the pea salad sounds amazing...going to try this. Hope your having a wonderful Summer, Sam. XO, Mona

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  44. Love the story about some of my favorite singers, esp. Johnny Cash. I'm very fond of "The Man in Black." I love the sub name of the salad "Southern Caviar." Black eyed just like Belga. Thanks for sharing it on foodie friday and I will pin it too.

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  45. The homegrown tomatoes at our farmers market signal the height of the growing season here in the Pacific NW. They are so delicious all on their own or with a small scoop of your pea salad. What a perfect summer meal. I remember seeing Johnny Cash in concert years ago and enjoyed your story very much, Sam.

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  46. Love home grown tomatoes! I have been getting mine from the farmers market. They have a great selection of different varieties of cherry tomatoes, that are so yummy. Love your photo, Laura

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  47. What a lovely story! Your tomatoes salad is a good accompaniment to your story...an dit looks so healthy and delicious. Homegrown tomatoes...eating it right there off the vine..food for the gods..
    Ronelle

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  48. Yum. I absolutely loooovvve homegrown tomatoes. Sadly, the last couple of times I've tried to grow them I only got really bushy plants and no good tomatoes. I love the simple salad you made with the different tomatoes. Have a blessed week! Nici ~ Posed Perfection

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  49. a juicy sweet tomato with a touch of salt and pepper is like the perfect end to a summer day! Love your pictures of the tomatoes!

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  50. What an interesting story, Sam! Those artists certainly changed the world of music. As much as music has changed, thankfully the interest in homegrown tomatoes hasn't. There is nothing better and I revel in this time of year. We had our first BLTs with my homegrown tomatoes last night.

    Beautiful shots of those gorgeous tomatoes and I'd love to try that bean salad recipe too!

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  51. Sam, This is just the most beautiful salad and what a great story! I can just imagine it all!
    Thanks for answering my facebook call for more participants! You are a dear friend!

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  52. This salad looks so colorful and vibrant! Beautiful photographs!

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  53. Nothing tastier than home grown tomatoes, Sam. I loved reading about your musical history with some of our greats! Such fun! And lucky you to have been a part of the beginning.
    Your simple dressed pea salad is a great addition to the platter of tomatoes.

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  54. The tomatoes look gorgeous! How lovely to be able use your own! I've given up trying to grow them since the SUmmer in the UK has been dreadful for the past few years!

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  55. Oh my gosh, I can never have too many tomatoes in the summer. These look so wonderful. Like a bouquet of tomatoes!! Thanks for linking to Foodtastic Friday!

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  56. Glorious tomatoes!! I have never seen a Cherokee purple tomato but it makes a nice arrangement with the others.

    We are almost at the end of our tomato season and those we are eating now coming from "up the road" a bit. Your "caviar" is a perfect partner with the tomatoes.

    Love the Rock and Roll story... the good ole days!

    Bises,
    Genie

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  57. Loved your story about the legends of Rock and Roll Sam. I can hardly wait to get some home grown tomatoes from my Son's MIL over Labor Day weekend. She grows so many heirloom varieties. Will have to make your pea salad.

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  58. It is the season of the tomatoes. I have to admit, it is rare that I find the "most perfect tomato!" And...living in Florida,I expect better! (Not very often) I picked tomatoes last May,south of Tampa,there were a "few" perfect ones. Never in the grocery store! There is no comparison when you know what the perfect tomato is:how it slices,the juice and the texture. My in laws had a great garden in Indiana and from that garden, came wonderful tomatoes.I miss that! They grew the black eyed peas also, so I certainly could have prepared your delicious dish that you just shared with us. Hubby comes home next week so I think I will give this a try!Hope you are enjoying your summer!

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  59. You had a front row seat?????!!! How amazing. Katie and I saw Million Dollar Quartet earlier this year...what a neat story. And your tomatoes look amazing...I never would have thought of topping them with pea salad...mmmmmmm.

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  60. The salad looks terrific...one of the best things about summer are the tomatoes. The first tomatoes to ripen this year were my Purple Cherokee. I grew Persimmon last year and loved its sweet taste.

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  61. Your tomatoes look so bright and beautiful. You show some that I have never seen. We do not grow tomatoes and don’t often get the homegrown kind – it makes a lot of difference in taste. In France tomatoes seem to have more taste than those bought in grocery stores here. My mother would make “une salade de tomates” as a hors-d’oeuvre very often – but they have to be good. How exciting to have had your dad in charge of such a fun event – and to meet all these famous singers! Don’t you wish there were digital cameras then so you could have taken many pictures?

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  62. And those pictures are truly gorgeous. If they ever need an LA producer to come be a judge for Miss Pink Tomato, please give me a ring!

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  63. Nothing beats a homegrown tomato, both in variety and taste. Your tomatoes look absolutely amazing and delicious! What a great salad, so tasty. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe with Summer Salad Sundays! I'll be hosting every week through summer so I'd love to see you again with your next salad recipe.

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  64. There's nothing that beats a homegrown tomato! Your salad looks absolutely divine.

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  65. My gosh, Sam, your stories are fascinating! What a life and what stories you have to tell. I am amazed! And we wish for our own garden so we too can enjoy homegrown tomatoes (tomatoes are the only thing my dad attempted to grow in his "garden". I love your salad!

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  66. I love this!! So refreshing for summer. Thanks for sharing on Southern Sundays. Hope to see you again tomorrow.!

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  67. Hi Sam,

    It's Chrystal Norton Corcoran from Warren. Thanks for the link from Facebook to your blog here. Loved reading your post...I learned things I didn't know about the Bradley Pinks. I look forward to reading more of your blog & trying your recipes!

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I enjoy reading each and every comment. If you leave a comment with a question or that requires an answer, please leave an address or way for me to get in touch with you. I appreciate your taking the time to visit my blog and I hope you'll return again soon.
Sam