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| Joe Charlebois | Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Norman M. Covert | Hayden Duke | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Tom McLaughlin | Patricia Price | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. | Brooke Winn |

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The Tentacle


July 10, 2005

Nectar of the gods...

Tom McLaughlin

Humor by Tom McLaughlin

I love fruit: the fresher the better. I await the beginning of the season with strawberries plucked from the plant. The first ones begin on the Eastern Shore as the growing season is about three weeks earlier than here in Western Maryland.

I travel to the beach to visit mom and dad and begin to watch for the signs that say "local strawberries." I don't stop at the large vegetable conglomerates that have a permanent building. Rather, I look for the truck or beat up car by the side of the highway with a hand-lettered scrawl advertising what they have for sale.

The large buildings often have acres of lawn decorations attached to them. I do not know who purchases these windmills, small house or statutes of various animals, but somebody must as every place selling fruit has an assortment of these hideous lawn mowing nightmares.

I just can't imagine a tired but relaxed family returning from a vacation at the beach loaded with sand chairs, rafts, surf boards, depleted ice coolers and dirty laundry stopping to purchase an ornament for their yard. They are usually huge and either a child or the edifice would need to be strapped atop the car.

There is a beat up old vehicle located about five or six miles outside Cambridge on the east bound section of 50 that I usually stop to purchase my mother's fresh vegetables. The couple has to be in the running for the Guinness Book of aged humans. They would also be a dentist's joy, if they had insurance, for a complete reconstruction of their mouth.

Usually the fruit is nicely displayed on what was once a card table and as I pull up, the ancient lady gets out of the car and hobbles over to see what I want to buy. Since I speak Eastern Shore, we discuss the weather, the crops and Alan Greenspan's fiscal policy. I also inform her that the only tomatoes worth eating are those grown with chicken manure as a fertilizer.

She suddenly realizes I am not some wacko environmentalist who wants to deprive them of a free source of fertilizer, but a person who knows his tomatoes. You see, I want a tomato that will bite back and is so loaded with acid that it will melt my teeth. Then they know I know my tomatoes. More importantly, they tell me when the first ears of "local" sweet corn will be ready. I say "local" corn as I only want those ears grown within a 10-15 mile radius and picked that morning.

I can keep in strawberries for about six weeks because as soon as the Eastern Shore varieties are finished, the Western Maryland crop becomes available. I usually stop at the stand in Boonsboro as they have the best and sweetest ones around.

Next come the peaches. I, again, only want them local and fresh from the tree. I am so very lucky they are available from the Smithburg orchards and I make it a point to drive to that area to purchase these globules of joy.

Most people like them a bit hard but not me. I want them soft, juicy and melt in my hand gooey. I love to slop them on my shredded wheat in the morning with just a touch of milk; or dripping over my vanilla ice cream. To get them this perfect, you have let them set out on the kitchen counter for a day or two.

I can usually judge when they are ready because of the number of fruit flies. When I can no longer get into the kitchen because of the swarms, I know they are ready to eat. Peaches usually last until October but at the end of July come the cantaloupes. And the Boonsboro cantaloupes, well, more on them later.



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