Friday, November 02, 2007

The $40 Tomato

This is a $40 dollar tomato. It is also a memento deficio, which is like a memento mori except instead of using it to contemplate my eventual demise, I can instead just contemplate my shortcomings.

Last spring (and spring comes early in central Texas) I decided I would plant some herbs. I drove around until I found a gardening store. People were buying flowers by the SUV load but back in the corner, behind the perennials and the annuals, the day lilies, the pink phlox, the bright yellow of marigold and the promise of the rose bushes, I found vegetables and herbs. I bought thyme, rosemary and basil. Rosemary never really worked very well in Cleveland. Cleveland is one zone too cold for rosemary, which meant that rosemary would last about a year and then a hard freeze would kill it. But here, I reasoned, I could eventually have a real herb garden. Maybe a knot garden. Okay, not a real knot garden, but at least a little decorative herb garden with borders of rosemary and squares of basil, thyme, savory, oregano and tarragon. I bought six rosemary plants, a lemon basil and a regular basil and two different kinds of thyme and brought them home. I planted them. Then Bob and I went for a walk and while we were walking we discovered something. In Texas, rosemary is a bush. I bush that grows several feet tall and several feet wide. It is not a neat little border.

Back home I took out some of the rosemary and moved the rest.

All this mucking around in the garden got me pondering. I don't like store bought tomatoes. They don't have any taste. When I was a kid, my Aunt Sylvia grew tomatoes in containers on her patio. My Aunt Sylvia lived in California. They had a pool. The one time I went to Aunt Sylvia's, she made a leg of lamb for dinner. I had never heard of such a thing. Their house was different, beautiful. I could only think that if I had a container or two growing tomato plants, suddenly my house, and by extension, my life, might become a little more...interesting. Besides, the place where I had put the herbs was around the side of the house and I knew me, if I didn't see those tomatoes every day, they'd never get watered. So I bought a couple of containers, some potting soil and two heirloom tomato plants. All in all, about $40.

I put the plants in the containers. And then it rained. It turns out, if you over water tomato plants in containers, they don't set blossoms and if they don't set blossoms, you get no fruit. And that's what tomatoes are. Fruit. I fertilized. I moved them into the sun. When there was sun. It was the wettest summer on record in over a hundred years. Finally I stuck one of the damn plants in the ground. It was mid-August and in Ohio, there would only be about thirty days left in the season.

I have lots of green tomatoes on my tomato plant now. But the nights are getting chilly (we've had temperatures in the 30s.) Still, yesterday I picked my one red tomato off the plant. The photo above makes the tomato look massive, but actually, it's the size of a peach, a little smaller than a red delicious apple. It's the $40 tomato. Later today I will slice it and eat it, maybe with a drizzle of olive oil and some of the basil from the garden. The basil has done great, as has the rosemary and the thyme. Next year, I'm sure the tomatoes will do great.

But for now I can contemplate my $40 tomato and recognize that sometimes I get a little ahead of myself.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the story... A tomato plant will continue to grow and ripen tomatoes even when it is dying and ugly looking, so give it time -- if you keep it covered you may yet get more tomatoes.

November 02, 2007 2:32 PM  
Blogger mary grimm said...

It is a damn fine looking tomato though.

November 12, 2007 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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March 24, 2009 2:47 AM  

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