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TONY MELTON: Fall is harvest time

TONY MELTON: Fall is harvest time

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I just got out of the hospital where I spent a couple of days of rest and relaxation (ha), just in time for all the fall harvest. We will be forever making payments to McLeod Hospital for this Old Junker. Maybe one day we will get the title for me.

First, the cotton bolls are busting open and the fields are white unto harvest. The unique smell of cotton defoliate (a harvesting aid) is in the air. I love to see the wide eyes of our Northern neighbors when they first glance upon a beautiful white field just before harvest. I call it a “hot-weather snowfall.” I chuckle each time I see a group standing out in a cotton field taking pictures.

Next, it’s pumpkin-picking time. Unlike the North we don’t have frost on the pumpkins and usually shorts/short sleeves/ and sweat are our choice of pumpkin-picking attire. Also, jack-o’-lantern and larger types of pumpkins are one of the most difficult crops to grow in the low state of South Carolina. It takes a very ambitious grower to produce marketable jack-o’-lantern pumpkins here and even the best pumpkins will have some green streaks, which are a sign of a virus infecting the plants. Personally, I think these minor imperfections make the pumpkins more interesting and it is always better to buy certified S.C. grown. However, the miniatures or what I call “kiddy pumpkins” are much easier to produce, maybe because the plant doesn’t have to concentrate all its effort to produce large pumpkins.

Next, it’s sweet tater digging time. Sweet potatoes, a prominent member of the morning-glory family, since they love the heat they have been vining all summer long taking all the sugars produced in those luscious green leaves and storing them in their swollen roots we mistakenly call “yams.” Actually “yams” are in a totally different family of plants. They are just sweet potatoes but most people call them “mighty fine eating.” Truly, I am not a big eater of sweet potatoes today because when I was a kid growing-up in McBee we ate sweet potatoes on top of sweet potatoes. What else grows well in that poor sand of McBee without irrigation?

Finally, it’s peanut digging time. Again, it is not a nut but I am a nut for boiled peanuts. Northerners like theirs roasted, the entire country is nuts about peanut butter and candy, but here in the South boiled peanuts are king. Peanuts have become one huge crop for the Pee Dee and about every road you travel you can smell the peanuts drying before harvest. In fact, the world’s largest canner of boiled peanuts, McCall Farms, is in Effingham.

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