Tag Archives: vegetables

My Father the Farmer: Dirt Runs Through His Veins

dirt in his veins

My father is a farmer. Not the up with the rooster, working the fields, dirt under nails kind of farmer. He is the kind who looks at a yard and sees a small plot of earth in which to grow things. The kind who thinks and plans and plants and eats and then thinks and plans….He is a man of letters with South Carolina agrarian blood generations old pulsing through his veins. He scrapes scraps, churns refuse, spreading and working it through the soil like a baker kneading bread. He sees life beginning, stretching, full of possibility, regenerating in every square inch of dirt he has sanctioned. I have heard the tenderness in his voice as he walks me through his garden, seen the loss in his eyes when he talks about leaving a place and leaving behind his plants. He has taken an impossibly cold, rock of an island in the St. Lawrence River and planted tomatoes and herbs. Dirt runs through his veins.

I have long hoped that this same blood runs through me—this love of the land and tending things. Maybe it will become more dominant as I age, settle and slow down but for now, it is still just a longing. I lack the patience, the attention to detail and the long view that characterizes one who plants. My desire is for the immediate, the applause, the back slap. I live for the dreams, the ideas, the process, the prototypes. My father patiently turns and nourishes the soil. Waters and dead heads and stakes his plants. He collects leaves from neighbors, hand washes delicate egg shells and sorts through the remains of meals to create the perfect compost cocktail.

These things don’t come naturally to me. So, for now, I emulate hoping that in the doing—the digging and planting—any remnants of the South Carolina soil that runs in my veins will be stirred and awaken the farmer in my soul.

My Favorite Ways to Celebrate Summer Holidays Southern-style

Summer-time. Long days…relaxing weekends…fresh produce…family and friends….

The Fourth of July holiday combines all of these great things.

Flags Flying Freely

Flags Flying Freely / Photo by Amy Watson Smith, 2013

This year we celebrated July 4th the way we have for years. We enjoyed a great meal with a dear friend whose wife and three children were away. Afterwards we took a few pitchers of frozen drinks to our next door neighbor’s house and enjoyed fireworks and conversation with neighbors.

Fourth of July Dinner, blackberry peach cobbler

Fourth of July Dinner / Photo by Amy Watson Smith, 2013

We cooked New York strips on the grill–this was the first day that it had not rained in almost a week.

Hydrangeas and flags

Hydrangeas and flags / Photo by Amy Watson Smith, 2013

Despite my poorly timed pruning this past fall, my hydrangea bushes produced enough flowers for our centerpiece.

vintage American flag

Dr. Billy’s flag / Photo by Amy Watson Smith, 2013

This flag once belonged to my stepfather and was flown for many years from the porch of his Charleston house. Given the age of the flag, we prefer to display it inside these days.

Garden & Gun, Charleston Magazine, Local Palete

Keeping current / Photo by Amy Watson Smith, 2013

With the fourth falling on a Thursday this year, we were able to stretch out the weekend which allowed me time to peruse three of my favorite magazines: Garden & Gun, Charleston Magazine and Palate.

Edisto tomato pie

Tomato pie / Photo by Amy Watson Smith, 2013

With a counter-top full of ripe, home-grown tomatoes, I could not resist making a tomato pie. If you want my recipe, click here.

Boiled peanuts, South Carolina, southern

Boiled peanuts / Photo by Amy Watson Smith, 2013

No Southern, summer gathering is complete without freshly boiled peanuts. I picked these up at Ruke’s Vegetable Stand on Mathis Ferry Road in Mt. Pleasant.


Watermelon / Photo by Amy Watson Smith, 2013

Watermelon. What else can I say?

Blackberry Peach Cobbler, recipe, Gourmet

Blackberry Peach Cobbler / Photo by Amy Watson Smith, 2013

We finished everything off with a delicious Blackberry Peach Cobbler using the fresh fruit I picked up at Boone Hall Farms vegetable stand. Below is the recipe I used.

Blackberry Peach Cobbler

Gourmet | September 2005
yield:Makes 12 servings
active time:25 min
total time:1 1/2 hr (includes cooling)


  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 lb blackberries (5 cups)
  • 2 lb peaches (6 medium), peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons whole milk


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Butter a 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish (3-quart capacity).

Whisk together cornstarch and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a large bowl, then add blackberries and peaches and toss to combine well. Transfer to baking dish and bake until just bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes.

While fruit bakes, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in another large bowl, then blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and stir just until a dough forms.

Drop dough onto hot fruit mixture in 12 mounds (about 1/3 cup each), then sprinkle dough with remaining teaspoon sugar. Bake cobbler until top is golden, 25 to 35 minutes. Serve warm.

Cooks’ note: Cobbler can be baked 6 hours ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Before serving, let stand at room temperature 1 hour, then reheat in a preheated 350°F oven until warm, about 20 minutes.

The Secret of Summer? Tomato Pie

Edisto tomato pie

Tomato pie. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

Tomato pie is synonymous with summertime in South Carolina–especially in the Lowcountry.

I remember the first time I tasted this delectable treat. I was staying with friends at Edisto Beach and our hostess had purchased a tomato pie from one of the road-side vegetable stands. With the first bite, I fell in love with the salty, acidic, creamy, cheesy dish served up in a flaky, buttery pastry shell.

Over the years I have eaten my share of pie and have worked on perfecting a recipe of my own (see below).

This past weekend I stopped by the road-side vegetable stand not far from my house. Run by Boone Hall Farms (http://www.boonehallfarms.com/), this stand is open virtually year-round. They have a great market/cafe a bit further up Highway 17, but I love the  red and white tent that sits in the midst of the u-pick fields.

Boone Hall Farm

I love to wander over to the fields to see what is growing. Strawberries, blueberries and blackberries were still available, according to the signs but I didn’t seem to make it past the rows of tomatoes.

tomato fields

At this point in the summer they are still in their teenage state of greenness.

tomato vines

Fortunately they had some vine-ripened tomatoes from Florida.


 These tables will be overflowing in a few weeks. I can’t wait.


South Carolina peaches are just appearing but they need to ripen a bit more. I decided to give them another week or two.

peach crates


Sandy smiled and laughed as she rang up all of the produce I purchased.


What are your favorite road-side vegetable stand finds? Do you have any favorite recipes that use fresh produce? I hope that you will share them here.

slice of pie

Edisto Tomato Pie 

1 (9-inch) pie shell

1 egg white

1 teaspoon water

2-3 large tomatoes*, peeled and sliced or chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried minced onions

dash of red pepper

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons flour

4-5 fresh basil leaves chopped

dash of paprika

  1. Beat egg white with water. Brush over unbaked pie shell. Line pie shell with parchment paper and pie weights (can also use dried beans). Bake pie shell according to directions. Cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Peel and slice or chop tomatoes. Gently squeeze tomatoes to remove excess liquid and place in a bowl. (*If you don’t have good, home-grown tomatoes then you can use a mix of tomatoes. I always replace a cup of grape tomatoes sliced in half for one of the tomatoes because they are always tart and good). Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Mix mayonnaise and shredded cheddar together in a bowl. Add half of the parmesan cheese. Add minced onions and a dash of red pepper and mix.
  5. Put flour in bowl. Remove tomatoes with a slotted spoon to reduce liquid and place in bowl with flour. Toss tomatoes in flour.
  6. Place tomatoes in bottom of the cooled pie shell. Add remaining salt and pepper, garlic powder and basil leaves.
  7. Spread mayonnaise-cheese mix evenly over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese and paprika.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

One Thousand Gifts / #114-119

The additions to my 1000 Gifts list this week all center around a two-hour period one afternoon this past week when my daughter and I went on a photo shoot together. The day was cloudy as we explored the Charles Pinckney National Historical Site in Mount Pleasant (SC) just a few miles from our home. While spending time alone with my teenage daughter is not as common as it once was, sharing our common passion of photography made the time together particularly special.

#114. Mother-daughter photo shoot field trip

#115. Branches reaching to the sky

#116. Fields blanketed in wild flowers

#117. Clear path

#118. Teenager looking with new perspective

#119. Road-side vegetable stands

All photographs are by Amy Watson Smith, 2013.