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Sunday, May 31, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Green one day, bloodshot the next: July ushers in backyard tomato season

July is when tomatoes begin turning red. (SUSAN MULVIHILL/SPECIAL TO THE S)
July is when tomatoes begin turning red. (SUSAN MULVIHILL/SPECIAL TO THE S)

It probably wouldn’t be a big deal to those in Spokane with an abundance of experience growing tomatoes.

But for the rookie gardener, it’s a revelation. The discovery that one of your tomatoes has transitioned overnight from green to red can be astonishing.

For the longest time, it seemed as if it was never going to happen. You checked every day, multiple times. Yes, they had grown bigger, oh so slowly. But were they ripening? Couldn’t tell. They were green one day and green the next. And the next.

Then, like the shift from black-and-white to color in “The Wizard of Oz,” the biggest tomato changed dramatically while your back was turned.

Snugly nestled among a cluster of still-verdant holdouts, it looked as if it had turned on an inner light. Or maybe it was blushing because it was shy about going first.

OK, it’s a muted shade right now, but unmistakably red all the same.

The difference between mid-July green and late July red is like the difference between thinking about going swimming and actually diving into the water.

The fact that the chroma change didn’t happen gradually makes it all the more remarkable – at least to the novice produce cultivator.

Green one day, bloodshot the next.

Soon the other tomatoes should follow its lead. They just need a little more time, a little more sunshine to soak up and perhaps just a bit of coaxing.

“C’mon. C’mon. You can do it.”

There’s no hurry.

Does it count as “Eat local” when the tomatoes are about 15 feet from your dining room? Yes.

August starts later this week. Summer is moving on. Our gardens mark the time.

But the season is not over. There are still drives to take, old songs to hear, languid conversations to have and iced tea to drink.

And when the time is right, salads to savor and homegrown tomatoes to praise.

Remember the Alamo

Spokane has many strengths, many fine attributes.

People here are good at a lot of things. But guessing the origin of accents is not one of them.

I haven’t done a scientific study or comprehensive survey. But I’ve lived here more than 30 years and know many other transplants. And I can tell you that an amazingly high percentage of local residents assume that any trace of a Southern accent automatically means you come from Texas.

That’s not the case, of course. Some people who grew up in North Carolina or Arkansas don’t sound like those from the Lone Star State – who, by the way, do not all sound alike either. It’s a big state. There are several ways to pronounce “oil.”

You might think people here would have developed somewhat more discerning ears, if only because of the Air Force presence. But no.

Now I ought to point out that those on both sides of these conversations are almost unfailingly friendly about this. They often wind up learning a bit about each other in the process. All’s well that ends well.

As I said, the people who live here have oodles of appealing qualities.

But c’mon. If a visitor from another planet arrived in Spokane, I suspect someone would hear him speak and assume he is from Texas.

OK, I’m not expecting Spokane natives to be like the accent-sniffing Theodore Bikel character in “My Fair Lady.”

It would just be nice, though, if more of us recognized not all Southern speech patterns are Texas accents.

Of course, the disappearance of regional accents has been forecast for many years. You know, due to mobile populations and the homogenizing influence of television, et cetera. Perhaps that will still happen.

Meantime, any Inland Northwest residents who grew up in the South can expect to be asked by strangers here what they miss about Texas.

Even if they have never been there.


When the baseball team you root for has the worst record in the major leagues, you are going to get abuse. That’s just the way it is. Sports fans have to take the bad with the good.

Fair enough. That doesn’t mean you can’t fight back.

So, on the chance some other Detroit Tigers fan is reading this, here are a few things you can say (or tweak) when a Seattle Mariners fan is giving you a bad time. (As the teams are playing each other this weekend, that’s almost certain to happen.)

“Remember when Tom Selleck always wore a Mariners cap in ‘Magnum, P.I.’? Me neither.”

“The Tigers have been to the World Series four times since I started following them when I was in junior high in Michigan. They won two. Please regale me with tales of the Mariners’ glorious postseason history. Take your time. I’ll wait.”

“The Tigers have been in the American League since 1901. Was Seattle even a city then?”

“Have the Mariners ever had a player as universally hated as Ty Cobb?” On second thought, maybe skip that one.

“I’m sorry my team is so bad. I wish they were better. For some reason, I would have thought a Mariners fan such as yourself could relate.”

Columnist Paul Turner can be reached at

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