Woman shares tomato secrets

Published 11:33 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2011

FRANKLIN—Louise Mears’ tomatoes are her pride and joy.

Louise Mears displays a pan of beefsteak tomatoes. Each weighs about 1 1/4 pound. -- Gwen Albers | Tidewater News

As in years past, Mears has grown beefsteak tomatoes that weigh about 1¼ pounds a piece. During the 2009 and 2010 Franklin-Southampton County fairs, she won blue ribbons for her tomatoes.

The Courtland woman’s secret — 10-10-10 fertilizer.

“That’s the fertilizer my daddy used,” she said. “It just makes everything in my garden better.”

Mears at one time used Miracle Grow but discovered that the plant food caused her tomatoes to produce a lot of foliage and no fruit.

She put her 18 tomato plants in the ground on May 20 and waters them twice a day when it doesn’t rain. Today, the plants stand about 4 feet tall.

Mears freezes her tomatoes and gives them away. She likes to make soup and tomato pudding.

The latter involves topping chopped tomatoes on crumbled up, day-old homemade biscuits in a pan. Add pepper, salt, sugar and enough water so the mixture can be poured into a greased pan. She then bakes it at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

“I keep it in there until it gets a little crusty,” Mears said.

She likes to serve her tomato pudding with black-eyed peas.

Mears also plants butter and snap beans, squash, cucumbers and eggplant, most of which she either freezes or gives away.

Mears would like to enter her tomatoes in this year’s three-day county fair, but is afraid its Aug. 11 start may be too late for her crop.

She learned much of her gardening from her parents, the late George and Rose Kitchen, and in-laws, the late Henry and Macy Mears, all of whom lived in the Franklin area.