Friday, July 12, 2013

This Week at the South Durham Farmers' Market

This Week at the South Durham Farmers' Market

  • 8 AM - Noon at Greenwood Commons, 5410 HWY 55 Durham, NC 27713
  • Music by Acoustic mandolin with Scott Boggs
  • Tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, blackberries, eggplant, cucumbers, peaches, cheeses, green beans, cabbage and more!

Tasty, My Dear
At SDFM we love (love love love) to talk about food - and this time of year is particularly exciting because we get to enjoy the wealth of heirloom tomatoes showing up at market.  Our obsession doesn't lie in the fact that tomatoes are pillars of umami, nor that we could imitate Bubba Gump's food focus with tomato recipes, nor the fact that one of the most delicious things we've ever put in our mouths is PieBird's tomato pie.  Nope - none of it.

It's the backstories behind those red, yellow, purple, green, and multicolored tomatoes that make tomato season so special.

From the astounding story behind Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter (see below), to the Julia Child, to the Cherokee Purple's mysterious journey from a Western Carolina 1890s Indian tribe to a North Raleigh man's mailbox in 1995, each heirloom tomato brings with it a remarkable history and flavors that often reflect the geography in which the plants were developed.  And we get to relive all the fun each summer with each new crop of tomatoes that our farmers bring to market.

So, this weekend, don't just go for the same tomatoes you usually opt for - seek out the big orange Moonglows, the tiny orange Sungolds, the White and Black Russian cherries, and the Hillbilly and Pineapple slicers.

You'll be glad you did.

Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter
M.C. Byles' life didn't begin the easy way.  At four years old, he found himself toiling in the middle of a hot and sticky North Carolina cotton field, which, needless to say, meant that there wasn't much time for him to pursue his education.  Still, that didn't stop him from later becoming an airplane pilot, wrestler, mechanic, and legendary tomato grower.

Following his stint in the cotton business, Mr. Byles became the owner of a small repair shop located at the bottom of a steep West Virginia mountain. The location of his shop generated a steady business as trucks overheated traveling up the mountain and had to roll back down for some necessary radiator work. He quickly earned the nickname “Radiator Charlie."  Yet, despite the fortuitous location of his repair shop, the Depression was looming and he decided that he needed to diversify his income.  So, without any prior experience in plant genetics, he set about developing a large, sweet, meaty tomato that would be able to feed a family at dinner.

Mortgage Lifter tomatoes are known for their sweetness and size. 
Eventually, Radiator Charlie developed a stable variety of the tomato he wanted to sell and began marketing  his tomato seeds for one dollar per packet - and the seeds became so popular that people would drive for hundred of miles in order to buy them.  In fact, they were so popular, he was able to pay off the $6,000 mortgage on his house with the proceeds within six years, which was an amazing feat at that time.  From that time on these tomatoes were called "Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifters."

Radiator Charlie continued selling the seeds throughout his life and eventually shared them with the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Charlottesville, VA. Ladybug and Mamasprings will have Mortgage Lifters at market this weekend, if you want to taste the fruits of Mr.Byle's labor for yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment