Tomatoes and Memories

Photo by Doug DeMoss

(Story about my Mom and gardening begins in the second paragraph.) Believe it or not, this week wasn’t all about books! The tomatoes in my garden are coming in fast and heavy, and I did a lot of canning this week. I haven’t posted about canning much, but I do enjoy water bath and pressure canning when I get a chance. This week I had to take time off work to keep up with these tomatoes, and on two different days I put up about 20 quarts, 5 pints of tomatoes, and five half-pints of green tomato jam (lemony and delicious, I promise). I still have more tomatoes to can, so I’m thinking about spicy ketchup or tomato chutney of some kind. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

I have been canning off and on for years, but there is a story behind these tomatoes that make them mean so much to me. My mom was an avid and gifted gardener. She grew up in the mountains of North Carolina in the 1930s/40s with eleven brothers and sisters, and a Dad who was a farmer and logger. She helped out in the house, and and she also helped her Mom can the garden bounty in a washtub out in the yard over an open fire, as they did not yet have electricity. Mom moved to Cincinnati when she married my Dad and we lived in a poorer suburb, but she always had a magnificent garden. My whole life growing up we had garden vegetables in the summer and home-canned vegetables in the winter. I never thought much about it, but we were eating well, despite being a family of 10 in a three-bedroom house..

When my Dad retired, he and my Mom moved back to those North Carolina mountains and she had a garden for the 20 years they were able to stay there. She always had home-canned green beans, tomatoes, and sauerkraut, as well as other vegetables and fruits, and she was happy to give them to her kids. Consequently I still was able to eat home-canned vegetables more than most. When health problems became too much for them, they moved back to Cincinnati so my sister could help them. My Mom immediately started a garden and kept it up, even when her health began to deteriorate. My Dad had dementia and heart problems, and passed in 2019.

When my Mom died suddenly in March 2020, she left behind tomato seedlings she had already started. My brother gathered them and split them up between the siblings. I planted my share of those seedlings, and they didn’t do very well at all. However, I got enough tomatoes to get seeds for this year. This year my husband and I planted the seeds, and the plants have thrived! We call them Granny Tomatoes, because my mom always went by Granny to her many kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. We put in about 20 Granny plants and about 10 Romas, and the bounty has been plentiful, with many more still on the vines. So these tomatoes to me are more than just a garden treat. They are a legacy, one of which I am very proud.

Photo by Doug DeMoss

All of the tomato photos were taken by my husband in our tomato garden, as was the one I put on the main page of this blog.

The first two photos are my Mom (Dorothy Jenkins Zinser) at 16. The original version is on the left and a colorized version is in the middle. On the right is my Mom at almost 88, making sauerkraut in October 2019. She went to Heaven five months later.

A Memorial Day Salute to a Fallen Hero

This is a tribute to my Uncle Wayne Jenkins, who died in Vietnam in 1968, four days before his 21st birthday. He will always be our hero. Below are some photos and some information that I found on the FindAGrave Website.

Specialist Four Wayne Daniel Jenkins was a casualty of the Vietnam War. As a member of the Army Selective Service and a Draftee, SP4 Jenkins served our country until September 12th, 1968 in Bing Long, South Vietnam. He was 20 years old and was not married. It was reported that Wayne died from small arms fire or grenade. His body was recovered. Wayne was born on September 16th, 1947 in Bryson City, North Carolina. SP4 Jenkins is on panel 44W, line 038 of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. He served our country for one year. 

Sp4 Jenkins, this is in remembrance of you and the members of your squad who were ambushed on September 12, 1968, while on reconnaissance 5 kilometers Northeast of Loc Ninh, Binh Long Province, Vietnam. That day was a long and sad day for Alpha Company, 1st Battalion 28th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. You will never be forgotten. Niner One.

Find A Grave Page for Wayne D. Jenkins

Wayne D. Jenkins

VIETNAM WALL PHOTO

BRYSON CITY, NC: Resting Place: Blankenship Cemetery.

We will always remember you, and wonder what might have been. I never got to know you because you died when I was four years old, but you will always be honored by our family.

Please tell us all about your fallen heroes in the comments section.