26
Sep
10

My Tomatoes Ride the Short Bus

We said good-bye to summer last week, and I’ve all but given up my dreams of garden-fresh tomatoes.

We started from seed back in February in little clay pots on the kitchen window sill. It was like a terra cotta maternity ward. I thought we were so clever to get heirloom varieties: a yellow one, a red one with stripes, and a purple one. I wouldn’t remember their funny names, but they would be so colorful! My plan was to choose the strongest, fastest growers, eliminate the rest, and plant a few of them outside.

I built a huge planter box as big as a coffin and transferred five plants around Memorial Day, when they were finally big enough to be moved. In the sunniest section of our garden, they probably got about 7 hours of direct light a day. But even with daily watering, fastidious care and trimming, fighting off slugs, chasing away bugs and alley cats — folding chicken poop into the soil — they didn’t take off until July.

We mixed up the labels on accident, and I forgot which was which, but I figured we’d be able to identify them when the tomatoes ripened into full color. The first little fruit, a lonely green globe of pure joy, came budding out a full two months later.

I was a little embarrassed to tell anyone, because August was so late, but I was proud of my little trooper anyway. His tardiness was surely my fault, not his.

Soon every plant had tomatoes growing, but we didn’t actually eat one until last night. It was that first one. Turned out to be yellow, bright and beautiful as a lemon. It tasted awesome in a salad.

One awesome salad after six months of energy and expense.

Now the plants are ready to give out. They’re starting to self-destruct, cutting off energy to their leaves and turning brown. We should be sick of tomatoes by now, but instead I’m just grateful for whatever I can scrape up.

A few months ago, I thought I might have too many. I had visions of cooking huge pots of sauce to freeze for the winter, sending some home to my mom, leaving little paper bags of tomatoes on neighbors’ doorsteps. Now I’ll be lucky to get a dozen.

So I have accepted it as my personal mission, my calling, to see those green tomatoes through to the end. This garden will not be a failure. I will see them on my dinner plate if it kills me. (At least I’m not likely to die while choking on a tomato.)

Maybe before the frost comes, we’ll see some color out there, and I’ll finally know what I planted.

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1 Response to “My Tomatoes Ride the Short Bus”


  1. September 28, 2010 at 2:02 am

    You should touch base with my husband. He’s the household gardening expert, and he fights an annual battle with the tomatoes until he gets what he wants out of those plants! Every year, it’s either too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry. But he gets satisfaction out of it. And we get some amazing salsa made, too!


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