Couple favors the tomato

Saturday, August 27th 2005, 12:04 pm
By: News On 6

PRYOR, Okla. (AP) _ About a mile east on Farm to Market Road, between Adair and Pryor, lives a couple who have grown so many tomatoes that they began an honor system to sell their produce.

Jack and Sue Ray could also write their own recipes for the amount of salsa and spaghetti sauce their crop has produced since making their garden nine years ago.

The couple prides themselves on growing the best tasting tomatoes which include Brandy Wine/ Heirloom tomatoes.

``Those are the ugliest tomatoes you've ever seen but they taste so good,'' Ray said. They also grow the Parks Beefy and Whopper tomatoes and Romas for canning.

Sue Ray said she makes a huge batch of salsa and spaghetti sauce which she sends to family and friends while the tomato crops are in abundance. She recently sent 12 quarts to her son in Washington State.

``I usually put it in pint-sized jars but my son likes it in quart size jars,'' she said.

The couple's granddaughter who lives with them and is getting ready for college said she will take some of her grandmother's famous spaghetti sauce and salsa with her when she leaves next week.

Sue Ray said she and her husband had gardened at one time when their two sons were younger but since their sons grew up and left home about 20 years ago, it was something the couple had not done for some time.

``At that time, I was so busy raising a family that I didn't have the time or energy to devote to a garden,'' she said.

``I retired from teaching nine years ago and I needed something to do,'' Ray said. ``I have always enjoyed working in my flower bed and I just told my husband one day I wanted to have a vegetable garden.''

Jack Ray, who is retired from Boeing in Tulsa, said gardening has brought him many hours of fulfillment.

``It's a hobby and it's a lot of work but we both enjoy it. I'm usually out here tilling just like I'm doing now. I'm tilling to help the cucumbers this fall,'' he said.

``It's funny, but after I retired, I didn't have much to do and then my wife wanted to get into gardening. Now we work harder than we did before we retired but we do enjoy it,'' he said.

The couple has turned gardening into a family affair. Although both their sons have moved away, they came back this summer to install a water line to the garden.

The couple also had a green house on their property where Sue Ray plants seeds around February that are transplanted to the garden in the spring.

In addition to tomatoes, the couple grows potatoes, corn, green beans, squash, okra, peppers of several varieties, and even wild blackberry, Jack Ray said.

But their favorite crop is still the tomato.

``We grow a lot of tomatoes of different varieties. Just this year alone, we've given away so many, canned a lot of salsa and spaghetti sauce and we've sold many from our vegetable stand and we still have a bunch of tomatoes,'' Jack Ray said.

Sue Ray said she recently gave 30 or 40 pounds to their son and daughter-in-law who just moved to Oklahoma City.

The couple sells tomatoes from their stand which is located along Farm to Market Road that leads to Dry Gulch.

``We call this an honor system. People just get what they want and leave the money in the can. Sometimes they might be short a few dimes or nickels but we don't worry about it,'' he said.

The couple is so busy with their gardening that they did not have time to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary recently.

``We were so tired, we decided not to do anything. I did get some flowers though,'' Sue Ray said.