Alabama Tomatoes: Homegrown And On Your Honor There's magic on Patsy and Herbert Spitzer's lawn in Pinson, Ala. In the summer, they spread out baskets of their garden's bounty on a card table. There's also a list of prices and a sign to put your money in the pickle jar. And you know what? People do.
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Alabama Tomatoes: Homegrown And On Your Honor

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Alabama Tomatoes: Homegrown And On Your Honor

Alabama Tomatoes: Homegrown And On Your Honor

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's go from that report on remaking the health care industry to a report on healthy food. It is just about time to cut some of those tomatoes that still hang heavy on the vine in Alabama, where we head for this week's Farmers Market series.

Melanie Peeples makes a visit to what she calls the sweetest vegetable stand she has ever known.

MELANIE PEEPLES: You take Highway 75 north out of Birmingham, pass the strip malls and the suburbs till the road winds through the rolling foothills of the Appalachians, before finally spilling out in the Pinson Valley. Keep going till there's just a sprinkling of houses. If it were any other time of the year, you wouldn't even see it, you'd speed ride past. But slow your car down and look closely, because only in the summer and therefore not unlike "Brigadoon," there's magic on Herbert and Patsy Spitzer's(ph) front lawn.

Ms. PATSY SPITZER: Let me just put that right there.

(Soundbite of clanging)

Ms. SPITZER: Ooh. Mr. Spitzer and I have a time getting all this together.

PEEPLES: Patsy is 77, Herbert 82. So loading the baskets of fruits and vegetables from the front porch to the little card table out front each morning takes some work.

Mr. HERBERT SPITZER: (Unintelligible)

Ms. SPITZER: (Unintelligible) that's pretty heavy. Those are like the best apple pies you've ever seen.

PEEPLES: But it's not the apples or the okra that bring me here, it's the tomatoes, the vine-ripened tomatoes grown in the garden right behind their house. They aren't commercial farmers. This is their personal garden. But their bounty is my blessing.

Ms. SPITZER: We get too many, we just hate for them to ruin, so we put them out and share them, and people learn that we have 'em (unintelligible) got any tomatoes?

PEEPLES: See, a vine-ripened tomato is nothing like one bought at the store. A tomato shouldn't be pink. It should be red, deep red, blood red on the inside. And unless you grow them yourself, they're hard to find. But what makes the Spitzers' tomatoes sweeter is you buy them on the honor system. There's just a table and a sign that says put your money in the pickle jar. And you know what? People do.

Ms. SPITZER: We don't even pay any attention.

Mr. SPITZER: Maybe once or twice a year somebody will steal something.

PEEPLES: Well, they hope they don't get the whole jar. Do you…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SPITZER: No. (Unintelligible)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SPITZER: They just don't pay for what they get.

Ms. SPITZER: They just empty the basket and never put any money in it. That's okay. When they come out in the back (unintelligible) well, they must have been hungry or they were just - didn't have any money and that's okay.

PEEPLES: A lot of first-time customers can't believe it. They'll walk their money up to the front door and ring the bell, saying, Are you sure you want me to leave this money out here? The Spitzers just chuckle - their faith in their fellow man. And amidst this optimism, I've wondered more than once if it's truly the tomatoes I come to buy or maybe just a little bit more.

For NPR News, I'm Melanie Peeples.

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