The garden that year, my first year as a full-fledged gardener, organic gardener nonetheless, was such a success that it became the necessary thing to do each year. The whole family got involved in the process. The children, me, the dog all of us found pleasure in the things the garden provided, not just the vegetables from which we derived physical nutrition but also the hours of hard work and exercise together as a family, from which we derived sustenance for the soul. Now that the children have all married and moved away they are planting gardens in their back yards with their children. The seed has been planted, seed that has been passed down from generation to generation.
I don’t remember if it was the second or third, who knows, maybe the fifth year of the garden that I made a discovery. Before I continue though, I need to explain that this was during a previous marriage, I did most of the cooking then. In my second marriage now, I am married to a wonderful woman who loves to cook so sometimes it’s a battle to see who’s going to get to cook each meal. As the main cook for the family at that time, though, I really preferred (and still do) to use fresh ingredients, in fact I insist upon it as much as is possible. My children grew up eating fresh vegetables from the garden, if not our garden then fresh food from the farmer’s market. In my opinion there is nothing worse than store-bought canned vegetables and one step up from that is store-bought frozen foods. Whenever possible, in my opinion, one should use only fresh ingredients. So, my children grew up having fresh foods to eat. Even canned vegetables you have canned yourself are far better than those purchased at the local grocery. Anyway, back to the discovery.
This particular year, I had planted a variety of tomatoes that grew into huge plants. My tomato cages were made from six by six reinforcing wire mesh, the kind used in concrete floors. These cages were around eighteen inches in diameter and six feet tall. The variety of tomato plants I had planted that year were growing out the top of the cages. I bet we got a bushel of tomatoes off of each plant. As the plants were growing I began to spy out a prime tomato, one that was sure to be the first to ripen. I watched that tomato every day, sometimes two or three times a day I would check on it with great anticipation for the day when I would harvest that beauty and be the first to sink my teeth into its luscious red flesh. On the day that I was sure that my prized tomato was ready for plucking, I went to the garden, walked down between the rows of squash and zucchini, past the purple hull peas to the end of the garden where the tomato cages stood billowing with greenery, branches laden with green to pinkish orbs. My mouth began to water as I rounded the corner and made the horrible discovery. There basking in the warm sunshine, sitting cross-legged on the grass, lips glistening with the luscious juice of my prized tomato was Heather, my thirteen year old daughter. She and I had been watching the same tomato all these weeks. How could you get angry about that? I was so proud of her for wanting to get in on that goodness and having the ability to beat me to it. Heather and I have always been a bit competitive.
If you are a gardener you may or may not be aware of this. If you want to speed up the ripening process with your tomatoes, here’s what to do. After the fruit has set and is of substantial size, wait for the next full moon, strip off all your clothes and run through the garden naked. The tomatoes will blush immediately and you will have ripe tomatoes very soon. At least that’s what I’ve been told. I think maybe it was Dabney who told me… I don’t remember.