Opinion

Dave Peyton: New governor has it right about W.Va. tomatoes

By DAVE PEYTON

The Herald-Dispatch

In his inaugural address Gov. Jim Justice mentioned one of my favorite topics.

West Virginia tomatoes.

I never thought I’d hear a West Virginia governor praise West Virginia tomatoes, but in doing so, Justice became one of my friends. And, according to what he said, that gives me the right to call him Jimmy.

Governor Jimmy is more than a billionaire, a coal operator and owner of The Greenbrier. He’s a big-time farmer. And in stressing his belief that West Virginia could be a bigger farming state, he mentioned West Virginia tomatoes.

He said he didn’t know whether it was our soil or our climate or a combination of the two factors, but West Virginia produces the best tomatoes in the nation.

I agree.

I love tomatoes and have eaten them in perhaps a dozen states, and no state produces tomatoes as good as those in Mountain Mama.

I remember “cutting my teeth” on the tomatoes my daddy raised on land where I still live. The soil is Four Pole Creek sandy loam and will raise anything.

Dad raised Mortgage Lifters – a native West Virginia tomato – when I was very young. Later he turned his attention to raising Burpee Big Boys. For canning tomatoes, both he and I raised Rutgers, a tomato developed in New Jersey.

And speaking of New Jersey, the second best tomatoes I have ever eaten were in the central farming area of New Jersey. Oh yes, New Jersey has a splendid farming area, and Susie and I stopped there to sample the state’s tomatoes on our way to Atlantic City.

But back to West Virginia tomatoes. As I said, I am impressed Governor Jimmy knows how good West Virginia tomatoes are. They are sweet without being too sweet, juicy without being too juicy and the later in the season, the better they taste.

If the frost holds off until late fall, as it did last year, the tomatoes are beyond delicious. As we say here in Appalachia, “You can’t sit still and eat them.”

They must be left on the vine until they are “dead ripe” if possible. But if they are picked early, you must put them on the shelf at room temperature until they are as ripe as they can be without being rotten.

My son lives in Georgia and when he visits in the summer, he takes West Virginia tomatoes back to Georgia with him. Eight hours in the car makes them ready to eat by the time he arrives in the Peach State.

Governor Jimmy believes more farming in West Virginia could be a key to our economic revival as a state, and I agree. Southern West Virginia is already trying to organize gardening co-ops that would offer work for coal miners who have lost their jobs. That’s a great idea. It would allow them to remain in the place they feel comfortable and still make a living.

Meanwhile, we need to let the world know just how good West Virginia tomatoes are. My favorite way of eating them is to quarter them and fill the center with cottage cheese. My second favorite way of eating them is sliced on a boloney (a form of West Virginia bologna) sandwich smothered with mayonnaise.

My wife likes tomatoes with peanut butter on a Triscuit.

I wonder how Governor Jimmy eats them? And how do you eat them? Let me know.

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