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Thornton has a love of gardening

Selma resident Eddie Frank Thornton leans on the fence line near his house where he grows corn and tomatoes. (Jay Sowers | Times-Journal)

Selma resident Eddie Frank Thornton leans on the fence line near his house where he grows corn and tomatoes. (Jay Sowers | Times-Journal)

Eddie Frank Thornton spent his youngest years in the fertile farmland of Chilton County, and it’s there the Selma resident learned the love of growing corn and tomatoes.

When The Dart landed on Sewell Street Wednesday morning, it found Thornton looking over the rows of corn and tomatoes he had planted along a section of chain link fence on his property — something he’s done every years since moving there in 1971.

“I was raised on a peach farm, and we grew up eating only what we could grow,” Thornton said.

Over the years, his green thumb has garnered the attention of neighbors, many of which will seek Thornton out for tips, trade secrets and even a bite to eat.

“A lot of them will stop and ask me how I do it, and I’ll tell them what I can,” Thornton said. “And I keep all my neighbors feed in the summertime. Every doctor and lawyer wants to know when my tomatoes will be ready.”

Along with his usual rows of tomatoes and Indian corn, this year, Thornton planted a line of strawberry popcorn — a rare variety of corn that features ears that look like strawberries and can be cooked like a bag of popcorn in a microwave.

“You put it in the microwave, in a little cup, and just microwave it,” Thornton said. “It’s real good. It tastes like normal popcorn. I planted some more on the fence out there again this year, and we’ll just see what it will do.”

While Thornton said this spring has been cooler and wetter than he would prefer for growing crops, he knows the hot, dry days of summer aren’t far off.

“It’s been too cold and wet for these plants to take off just yet, but I’ll be ready for summer,” Thornton said. “If you can’t reach it with a water hose, you should just about hang it up. But this year we’ve had more darn rain than you can shake a stick at. I just know that when it quits, it usually quits and it will be dry as a bone then.”

And while he does enjoy a good ear of Indian corn or bowl of strawberry popcorn, Thornton said tomatoes will always be his favorite food to harvest at home.

“I can eat tomatoes anyway you want to go at it. I love ‘em,” he said. “I can just sit down and eat slice after slice of fresh tomato, or sometimes I’ll slice one on to a plate, put a little zesty Italian salad dressing over it and let it chill in the fridge for a while before I get to it.”