Mose Coleman didn’t know it, but he started an industry. In 1931, Coleman planted what he thought would be hot onions, but there was something about the sandy loam soil of Toombs County that made the onion sweet. It was so sweet you could eat it like an apple.
Folks started talking about those onions from “over around Vidalia.” In fact, Vidalia has become synonymous with those now-famous sweet onions.
Vidalia was first known as Jenkins Station. If things hadn’t changed, we would be eating Jenkins Station onions. As was so common in Georgia, the owner of the old Savannah, Americus and Montgomery Railroad had a daughter named, you guessed it, Vidalia. Jenkins Station became Vidalia. The owner, Col. Samuel H. Hawkins, had another daughter, Cordelia, for whom the city of Cordele is named.
There are 13 full counties and parts of seven others where the soil has the magic ingredients that create those wonderful sweet Vidalia onions.
We are blessed with a region that runs from Waynesboro to Blakely that produces about half the peanuts grown in the United States.
While he was not a Georgian, George Washington Carver came up with 300 uses for the peanut, including making peanut butter. I have had plenty of peanut butter, but still love it.
Speaking of Cordele, it has long proclaimed itself to be the “Watermelon Capital of the World.” About this time of year, dozens of old school buses, with the seats removed and the top cut off, will be used to haul tons of melons to the big farmer’s market in Cordele.
We grow all kinds of good stuff in Georgia, from sweet potatoes to all sorts of fresh vegetables.
Right now, my friends in the peach business are harvesting a bumper crop. It’s been a good year for peach growers. We had just the right amount of chill hours in the winter and good spring rain and no surprises, like that Easter freeze a couple of years back.
There is nothing better than a fresh peach, especially when it is sliced and placed in an ice cream churn. My crowd is particularly partial to the Georgia Belle, a variety that comes along a little later in the season.
We’re mighty blessed in our state to have such a variety of great food crops. We can feed you peaches, poultry, peanuts, pecans and a passel of other stuff, like Vidalia Onions.
If you moved down here from New Jersey, I would like to offer you some comparative analysis, but can’t. The No. 1 food product produced there is blueberries. Have you ever heard anyone brag about a New Jersey blueberry the way we would talk about a Georgia peach?
“That young lady is a pretty as a New Jersey blueberry?”
It just doesn’t work.
Yes, our farmer friends in the Midwest grow a great portion of our nation’s corn and wheat and we’re grateful to them and there are fine agricultural products from all across the nation.
It’s this time of year that I’m proud of my state and thankful we have so many hard-working dedicated farmers who follow in the footsteps of pioneers like Mose Coleman.
Harris Blackwood is a columnist for The Times. His column appears every week in Sunday Life.