Like most folks the things I enjoy most about spring are the balmy temperatures, the return of baseball, the excitement of students graduating with starry eyes and big plans but most of all the return of fresh produce to local grocery stores.
For most produce — especially fruits — there is a prime season for their availability and taste.
Tomatoes grown in hydro-phonic farms or wherever they get them in the off seasons just don’t have the taste that the Warren and Bradley County tomatoes do when they are ripe. Hopefully with all the rain this spring we’ll have a bumper crop next month.
June is the time of the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival and although they’ve had to scrounge to find enough for contests in bad years, normally they have more than any person can handle.
Let’s hope that’s the case this year.
The first week in August is normally the time when the famous giant Hope watermelons become ripe and the Cave City watermelons sometimes can be a little earlier depending upon the weather.
Having raised a few watermelons in my youth and early adulthood, I know it generally takes about 80 to 90 days for a watermelon seedling to grow and become large enough and ripe enough to harvest.
Given the Arkansas climate, that means it normally is late July or more likely August before we’ve had enough warm hot days to grow good watermelons.
I’d much rather have a sweet juicy watermelon than a prized steak.
Perhaps that’s why last week when I saw the first box of watermelons in Maumelle grocery stores that I became excited and against my better judgement bought one.
Who knows where it came from. Probably too early for even California or Arizona. Most likely they came from south of the equator in South America.
I should have known better but I found one with just a little green left on the stem and took it home and placed it in the refrigerator.
After a sufficient cooling period I took a knife and sliced into it and saw the mouth-watering red flesh of the watermelon but it looked a little funny — maybe too ripe. But even then normally there’s a part a watermelon affectionado can salvage.
But not this time. The melon was rotten throughout so it all went straight into the trash.
A few days later back in that same Maumelle grocery which used to be known for its service to customers, cleanliness and variety of products before a long-time manager retired, I thought I’d inform them of the bad melon I got. All my life that was all it took to get a replacement for free.
After all, I paid for one I didn’t even get to eat a spoonful from.
But no, the new manager told me I “should have brought in the old rotten watermelon to show him.”
“You mean bring in the rotten watermelon,” I inquired.
Yes, I was told. Otherwise we have nothing to go on.
And it’ll be a hot watermelon day in January before I ever buy another watermelon from that Maumelle establishment. I’d rather drive to Hope or Cave City.
All the while I knew I should have bought Arkansas strawberries which are in season and plentiful this year. In fact the White County growers say they have a bumper crop after all the rain.
Next time I’ll know to not buy off-season produce of any kind from a store that won’t stand behind what they sell.