One of the things we love most is how diverse of a group our members are – we have people of all ages and walks of life. Today, we’d like to introduce you to a very interesting woman – Jeanette Howeth Crumpler, a.k.a. “The Tomato Lady.”
Jeanette joined us last October at our Lakewood farm stand location and says she has been “enthusiastically and gastronomically happy” about the produce she picks up every other Saturday. She says that three key words brought her to Urban Acres: “fresh, organic, excellent.” So kind of you, Jeanette!
“The variety of in-season vegetables and fruits received from Urban Acres makes a huge difference since in-season produce tastes excellent and is really good for us. I love the variety of greens as well. These are so nutritious and are full of iron, vitamins & minerals. Whether cooked with a bit of onion, some ham and a touch of vinegar, or added to soups, they are an extra benefit to our health. The winter squashes keep so well and their flavor is delightfully enhanced when properly prepared. The potatoes and onions are some of the best I’ve ever seen. The cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower have been tender, sweet tasting and an additional treat. The apples and pears and the citrus perk up our tired palates too. The cleanliness of the produce and the convenient pick up place are two more pluses.” ~ Jeanette Crumpler
Here are some questions we asked to get to know her better…
Jeanette, when and why did you decide to start eating real, wholesome food?
Being a gardener for more than seven decades has taught me the value and good nutrition that fresh produce can bring to the table. I had my first garden by age 3 when my grandmother and her father passed along their gardening wisdom to me. They said I was the pesky kid who wanted to know everything about nature and gardening, from bugs to dirt to what makes good vegetables and fruits grow. Finally they gave me my own little patch which helped keep me out of their way.
But more importantly, my grandmother showed me how to amend the soil with the compost we made, how to prepare the beds, how to plant those miracles; seeds and how to care for them when they sprouted. My Dad showed me how to start seedlings in our little greenhouse and especially how to care for those before the plants were ready for the garden. I learned to grow and do seed trials early from him and in later years did seed trials for companies for more than 35 years.
Like all children, I expected quick results but gardening taught me patience if nothing else. It also taught me how to deal with disappointments, but the rewards a garden brought far outweighed those. Unlike most children, I could hardly wait to eat vegetables. I loved picking vegetables & herbs knowing how good they would taste. My grandmother also showed me how to cook them. She was insistent on cooking most vegetables in a short time using as little liquid as possible. She was also a big herb grower so I learned the value of cooking with herbs early. She had been born in 1862 so she was an old lady when I was born. My great grandfather was a Surgeon in those days and he was big on nutrition so he taught her that as well. They came from Tennessee to Texas in 1873 in the middle of a yellow fever epidemic and my grandmother became his nurse as well as their chief gardener. I thought she was the wisest woman I ever knew. She gave me her time, her love and best of all, her wisdom.
I was so hooked on gardening that my friends would ask me not to talk about fertilizer, crops, or how bacteria makes compost and dirt. In fact one girlfriend told me boys would never want to be around me if I kept that up!
For many years I grew a lot of my own in-season produce, but growing here in Dallas can be a challenge. Our soil in the east Dallas area is truly “white rock”, alkaline and clumpy clay. I had compost heaps all over the place when I had my large backyard garden. Nothing was wasted and many amendments were so beneficial in creating the proper healthy soil.
Do you have any produce tips for our other members?
My advice is to cook what needs to be cooked quickly, do some canning if possible, store in the freezer if you must, but serve as soon as possible. Some cooked foods can be held in the refrigerator, but quality deteriorates. Store potatoes & winter squash in cool dark, dry places.
What is your favorite fruit? Favorite veggie? Why?
Apples are my favorite fruit. I eat an apple every day and cook them as well. Tomatoes are my favorite vegetable (although they really are a fruit) but again being seasonal, winter can be a time of waiting for those that really taste good. In winter I usually buy Campari tomatoes, eat some fresh, make tomato soup, stews or sauce, and use them in cooking several other things. There is nothing like a homegrown tomato, especially from one’s own garden, but again, what a challenge! I have a couple of tomato growing secrets though: Amend the soil with as much composted material as possible and plant TWO, yes TWO, tomato plants of the same specie to a hole. Another good piece of advice from two generations of gardeners before me: Don’t rush the season. Too early planting can mean failure.
Please share your current favorite recipe with us.
Jeanette Crumpler’s Apple/Pear/Cranberry Sauce
3 cups fresh cranberries (washed and drained)
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
3 fresh Bartlett pears, peeled, cored & sliced into ½ inch pieces
3 fresh winter apples, peeled, cored & sliced into ½ inch pieces
1 tsp. Minced lemon peel
½ cup orange juice
Cook the first three ingredients over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the pears and apples, lemon peel and orange juice and continue cooking until the apple & pear slices are tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes, stirring some. After cooking, let cool and pour into ½ pint, clean canning jars. Store in refrigerator for up to 2 months. Can be served as a jelly on toasted bread or as a sauce over turkey or chicken, ham or pork chops. For a real treat, heat some then serve over vanilla ice cream and pound cake. The filled colorful jars make nice gifts too, any time of the year.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
My favorite cookbooks are: “General Foods Cook Book”, copyright 1932 and Lucinda Hutson’s “The Herb Garden Cook Book” copyright 1987. I have a large collection of cook books and love reading them just like any other book. So much fun too using the Urban Acres produce in many of the recipes.
A basket of Urban Acres produce makes a wonderful gift too. Some of my friends have commented on the beauty of the produce itself. Colorful turnips, squash and sweet potatoes nestled in bright mustard greens and Swiss Chard are pretty enough for a painting, but eating all of it is the real benefit.
I strongly recommend becoming a member of Urban Acres. You won’t be disappointed.