One of the great imponderables of gardening life: Why does it take so long for the first tomato of the season to ripen? And then when it does, why does it take forever for the rest of the tomatoes to transform from hard green to juicy red?
Amidst the heavy harvest of Fortex pole beans, one Sweet Treats cherry tomato was ready yesterday. It was consumed with great ceremony at last night’s dinner — one half going to Wonder Spouse, the other to me. It was so good!
But now the waiting begins in earnest. So many green tomatoes, so few signs of color change — except for yesterday’s delicious outlier. Somehow the memory of its perfect tomato flavor must satisfy us for — who knows how long?
All the tomato plants are still very actively growing. I tie new growth to the trellises daily. The undersides of my thumbnails are stained dark green from using my nails to snip off unwanted suckers as I tie my enthusiastic charges. When I wash up, the soap suds turn yellow-green from the tomato pigments that coat my hands as I groom the plants.
I’ve been doing this — growing tomatoes — for over four decades now. The routine is the same every summer. About fifteen or so summers ago, I wrote a poem about growing tomatoes. I hope you’ll indulge me as I share it with you here.
There they go again.
This year I swore I’d keep them under control —
every sucker pruned,
every new shoot tied to a support.
I thought I had them tamed.
Obediently, they clasped their cages —
yellow flowers nodding
from the weight of visiting bees.
Today, the riot is well underway.
An antigravity avalanche of green
shoots skyward, sideways, all ways —
like a group of guilty children scattering
in all directions at the approach of an adult.
I can almost hear them giggling.
So here I am once again —
This is not a task for timid souls.
You must wade right into the plants,
disregarding spiders and sticky aphids.
You must show no fear as you use a firm hand
to tie them to their supports.
Emerging from the struggle,
sweaty and coated in green tomato tang,
I bow to my partners.
Soon they will offer me heavy red globes
to transform into refreshing summer salads,
and fragrant rich sauces to freeze for winter feasts,
certain to fuel warm dreams
of summer sambas with tomatoes.
Happy Summer, everyone. May the fruits of your labors bring you as much delight as mine bring to me.
* I hope you enjoyed this repeat of a post from 2013.
#1 by Donna Deal on June 21, 2018 - 6:51 am
Beautiful poem and photos! What a crazy spring!? Now that the heat is here, I’m sure the tomatoes are coming in fast.
#2 by piedmontgardener on June 21, 2018 - 8:13 am
Thanks, Donna! This is the only poem I’ve ever sold. The editor of Green Prints bought it for the tidy sum of $25. Then six months later, he sent it back to me, writing that he had changed his mind, but that the money was mine to keep. Such are the travails of the writer’s life. 🙂
Happy Summer to you and yours. And thanks for stopping by.
#3 by tonytomeo on June 23, 2018 - 4:07 pm
Once, they start, they are overwhelming! If only they could spread it out through the rest of the year. We canned so many Roma tomatoes one year that they lasted into the next; yuk. Scheduling is not so easy, even in a familiar garden. Production is variable from year to year.
#4 by piedmontgardener on June 23, 2018 - 4:23 pm
I completely agree! My family chose to invest in an upright freezer, so that we can freeze sauce instead of canning it. That at least speeds up the processing a bit.
Thanks for stopping by!