Remember When: The roots of a plant tell a story

Remember When: The roots of a plant tell a story

By Guest Columnist Mary Jane Boutwell


Several weeks ago, Ann and Bill McKay gave me a few volunteers from last year’s cherry tomatoes and climbing spinach. They are looking good and need to be in the ground. But, I got sidetracked, as climbing spinach was not in my field of knowledge. The closest I have found in my books has been trailing spinach (New Zealand), a warm weather type. 

Somewhere around 50 years ago, Mama came home from Alabama with a rose cutting. She told of it, running rose, being used around Aunt Sally’s porch to create shade. It was pruned back after blooming, and the prunings were thrown across the fence into the pasture. It bloomed as an orange bud and faded to a full blown golden color. Over the years, it was lost, until Mama and her sisters were driving around remembering old times when one looked up into the top of a tree and said, “That’s Aunt Sally’s rose!”

I now have several of them. This is not just a running rose. I planted nine by a tall tree stump in the glade. Over several years, it disappeared. Early one summer while mowing, I looked down and saw a half inch leafless vine running across the yard. About 50 or 60 feet from the original plant (on the place to the west of us) it was blooming. The best I can figure, the original was 100 years or so old. By the way, this is not just a running rose. Someone poured scalding hot water on it, and it took off like a scolded cat. 

I wrote about Hubert Davis in WW2. He was an interesting man with many wonderful down home stories. One I like was of his growing and harvesting bush butter beans. He waited until most of the beans were ready to pick, pulled the plants up, and sat in the shade to pick and shell them. 

Years ago at the Garden Days of Crystal Springs experiment station, I bought a pack of turkey craw pea seeds, a heritage breed. They are speckled, run up the fence like running beans with very long pods, cooks up and taste a lot like pink-eyed purple hulled peas. The deer love them. 

What got me started was the seedling tomatoes. Years ago, we were visiting kinfolk in McKenzie, Alabama. Sitting around the kitchen table talking, we were eating from a bowl of Tommy Toe Tomatoes. They were delicious. I asked Aunt Elmer where she got them. Her answer, “I dug them up out behind the outhouse.” We continued to eat and enjoy. She could grow most anything from a seed. 

My children were grown before I learned that Aunt Elmer was really Aunt Elma. 


EDITOR’S NOTE: Mary Jane Boutwell is a passionate historian and is thrilled to share stories about way back when.



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