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Tough times for a tomato bum

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By John Whitlock

I have a confession to make.
My name is John and I am a tomato bum.
For most of my adult life, I have been able to slip through the summer rarely spending money on the most wonderful of summer fruit — the vine-ripened, but still carrying flecks of dirt, homegrown Kentucky tomato.
For me, homegrown tomatoes are the crystal meth of agriculture. Usually, the first taste is free but after that, they start charging. And as soon as you’re are done with the first one, you crave more.
To literally feed my tomato addiction, like Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” I have always depended on the kindness of strangers .... well, friends and family too.
Each summer, I eagerly wait for someone to approach me with an old plastic Walmart bag, heavy with tomatoes. It reminds me how the kids feel when candy is tossed from Christmas Parade floats. I just wanna grab as much as I can.
I have tried to conquer this problem. Last year, I planted my own tomatoes in a sunny, then shady, section of my back yard.
I diligently tended my little patch, watering it appropriately, making sure to properly place the little plant food spikes in just the right spot.
I even spoke lovingly to them.
But since the time in third grade when my beans were the only ones that didn’t spout from the milk carton, I’ve known my green thumb was black.
After a few weeks, I started calling my tomato patch “death row,” as all the condemned plants seemed to be sharing the same horrible fate.
I vowed then I wouldn’t make a plant suffer like that again.
So, I resigned myself to hoping other more successful gardeners would help a brother out.
I’ve heard the wet spring and shortened growing season hurt a lot of gardens. Maybe a tough economy has made people more protective of their bounty.
In years past, people were giving away tomatoes to random strangers, nearly pleading with us to take ‘em off their hands.
I call those “the glory days.”
But for now, I guess I will start laying out cash at the farmers’ market or a roadside stand.
I’m sure they will be worth it, but as everyone knows, a tomato you pay for isn’t as sweet as a free one.
Maybe next year, I can become a bum again.