Garden Lifestyle

Tomato Musings

Tomatoes are truly the headliners of the show in my Victory Garden.

Photo/Illustration: Greg Holdsworth (All)

They say that the tomato is America’s favorite vegetable to grow. Heck, even the late John Denver wrote a song about them. As I peruse my garden photos from the last couple of years, I thought I’d share some thoughts on why this veggie (I mean fruit?) is, and always will be, tops in my Victory Garden.

First and foremost, there is a whole world of varieties out there to choose from. I could conceivably grow nothing but tomatoes in my 1,100+ square-foot garden for several years and still not be able to try all of the varieties out there. This, unfortunately for my part of the country, isn’t feasible anyway. Our “wonderful” state bird, the mockingbird, seems to think that the red tomatoes are berries. They will (and have) wreak major havoc on any tomatoes that aren’t protected or covered.

Speaking of this protection, let me describe what I have done to thwart these critters in my garden. Imagine a “cube” built using 1″x1″x5′ plywood, with chicken wire covering the sides of the cube. One of the cube’s sides comes off to allow me access to the plants. “That’s a lot of work, time and money spent on just one veggie, Greg” I can hear you telling me. Are the tomatoes worth all that? Before you have gotten to the end of your sentence, I will have interrupted you with “Absolutely!”

As if the variety possibilities don’t convince you, there’s obviously the unbelievable taste factor. A while back, my mother gave me a sheet torn out of her desk-sized “You Might Be A Redneck If…” calendar (you know, like those Far Side ones). It read, You Might Be a Redneck If… Homegrown tomatoes make your list of the most important things in life. Touche!

Speaking of taste, I had an ex-girlfriend who gave a couple of my tomatoes to her grandmother. She told me when her grandmother had her first few bites, she was so overwhelmed by the experience, she literally cried. True statement. And who can blame her? Have you seen some of the tomatoes that the supermarkets and restaurants carry? It’s rather quite disturbing. We’ve all seen some that are this pseudo-pink-red washed out color. I have a term for those: FAKE tomatoes! Until I can afford to build or buy a decent-sized greenhouse, I will only be able to grow them during certain months of the year. And now with the tomato crop shortage in Florida, these jewels of your garden are even more valuable to produce.

When it comes time to harvest them, I of course, take the honor of eating the first one. After all I’ve done for them, I think I’ve earned it. I have some very excited friends and neighbors who look forward to them every year. And the family? They get extra treatment. Because they all live in other states, I actually drop the cash to FedEx some to them every year. Doing this technically makes them valued at several dollars per pound, but it’s an unimportant cost to me.

To conclude, when people ask me how my garden did, I basically put it like this – if the tomatoes did well, then it was a good season. If they didn’t, then it was a wash. They are truly the headliners of the show. If you don’t believe me or have never had a truly vine-ripened one, come see me in June

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