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If my brother were really Amish, he’d love homegrown tomatoes, too

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Family peace can require having plenty of homegrown tomatoes to go around.

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By Mark Rutledge

Saturday, August 18, 2018

I recently learned from my mother that my younger brother, Jeff, never consumes fresh, delicious, homegrown tomatoes. This is confusing because I absolutely love them, and my brother and I share a lot of the same DNA.

The tomato talk came shortly after my brother yelled at me as I was picking tomatoes in the family garden. I should explain that we are establishing a family compound in Gray, Tenn., where we intend to live an Amish lifestyle.

That’s not entirely true, but all of my siblings and I are moving back with our families to the family farm, and my father did leave behind a sizable collection of Amish straw hats.

Dad was a Baptist preacher who often declared that if he had it to do over again he’d join up with the Amish.

“They’ve got the right idea,” he said.

We’re not Amish. But the concentration of family members is an aspect of Amish culture. My younger sister, Sue Ellen, has lived on the farm with her family for more than 20 years. Jeff moved back from North Carolina several years ago to live in the farmhouse with Mom.

Older sister Martha and her husband, Andy, have established a homesite on the property. And my family and I are nearly under roof with our home-construction project on the front five.

“Stop picking! Those are promised!” Jeff shouted at me as he rounded the farmhouse, charging toward the garden.

It is a bit of a community garden these days, although I admit to not having helped much with the tending since the tilling. I was there on other business when I noticed that several tomato vines were laden with ripe fruit — one silver lining to an especially wet summer.

The house-building has been slow, but the tomatoes are glorious. Salt and pepper on a golden-yellow slicer is heavenly. Ours are so perfectly ripe they nearly fall apart being loaded onto a bed of mayo for a BLT.

Jeff was coming down on me for picking the Roma tomatoes he was growing for a friend. He simmered down after I assured him that I was only trying to prevent his Roma crop from falling off the vine to rot.

Describing her younger son’s outburst to our mother, I remarked how much Jeff must love tomatoes.

“Oh, Jeff won’t eat fresh tomatoes,” she insisted. “Never has. Likes them cooked, but never raw.”

I can almost understand how this is possible. As much as I love homegrown tomatoes, I have never acquired a taste for tomato juice.

In second grade, we were served a small glass of it every Wednesday. The teacher would pace up and down our long table like a drill sergeant, making sure every kid finished his juice.

I would make sure she saw me knocking back the last of my milk and then would dump my tomato juice into the empty carton as she paced away from me.

“Do you like V8 or other types of tomato-juice products?” I texted to my brother while writing this column.

“No, thanks,” he texted back.

Turns out that our shared DNA has an aversion to that delicious fruit’s juice. We also share a liking for grapes and the delicious juice products thereof.

Have I mentioned that Jeff has started a vineyard on the family compound?

I’ve called off the shunning.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.

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