Wednesday, August 16, 2006


First off, for those that have been following along, the reflective red bag I placed near my most robust tomato plant didn’t fool any of the green tomatoes hanging there. They are still not ripe. Obviously, despite what researchers say, there is no innate sense of competitiveness in that tomato’s DNA.

I promised to let you know about that so having done so, I am going to move on to another discussion, also about tomatoes. I surveyed the yard today and, in doing so, noticed that the flowers in the front yard are declining. And many of the trees are changing color. And surprisingly the grass is already strewn with an abundance of yellow leaves. Normally these are signs of frost, but there has been no frost, so I can only assume that this dying off is due to a season marked by rapid growth and early maturity.

I then checked my bumper crop of ‘green’ tomatoes. None ripe yet even though many are as big around as a slice of bread.

Truth is, I have grown tomatoes for more years than I care to remember, and out of that exercise has come an anxious thought that is carved deep in my mind. Memories of urban-cowboy weathermen who know nothing about gardening, and for a certainty, have never seen a homegrown tomato on a vine. So with complete indifference, they make no mention of frost on the six o’clock news. Complete inattention to that small detail.

So then comes the eleven o’clock news and suddenly everything changes. It is now almost midnight and that is when they smugly announce with a certainty that in ‘outlying areas’, the clouds will clear before morning and the temp will dip to zero or lower. And so, for so many years, there I am out in the garden in my nightgown, with car lights directed into the tomato foliage and a flashlight trying to pick all my tomatoes. Hands freezing from the wetness of the dew, and shadows so deep that I can do nothing more than feel around for the tomatoes that need picking.

Well, no more. I may be a slow learner but I eventually catch on. This year I have already picked my biggest tomatoes. And why not? This is NOT going to be another one of those years where I am going to wait until a weatherman rises out of his apathy and makes a midnight announcement.

You may say what you will about vine-ripened tomatoes. Yes, I agree, nothing can surpass the nectar of vine-ripened fruit. But when I compare a store-bought tomato with a home-grown tomato, picked at it’s greenest, we both know which will taste better. Even if that green tomato is ripened in a brown paper bag (or warm pig dung), it will still taste better than store-bought tomatoes treated with a dose of radiation that makes them as tasteless as corrugated cardboard.

And so I have already picked my biggest tomatoes. The small ones remain in the garden. They may rot, they may mold, they may wizen, or they may thrive and ripen. But, at least, when the news comes to expect frost, I will be far less offended, far less anxious, and I will be happy because when I dash out there in my nightgown and direct the car headlights on my garden, it will be a quick pick.


Blogger She Dances in Dragon said...

My grandma always ripened hers on the windowsills of the sun porch. We'd come over for Sunday dinner and the sun porch would be lined with green tomatoes. If we wanted any, we could come over on Tuesday or Wednesday and bag up the ones that had turned red.
My mom doesn't have the window space, so she ripens hers in brown paper bags.
They both had the same problem, though. As long as the tomatoes were on the vine, they wanted to keep growing -rather than ripen. Maybe it's a green thumb/red thumb kind of thing?

1:37 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

SD in D, you make me chuckle. I never thought I had a green thumb, but I must have, cause I certainly don't seem to have a red one.

Hub and I have long debated whether a window-sill or a paper bag is more efficient for ripening tomatoes. I'm convinced a paper bag works most efficiently.

12:44 PM  

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