Excerpt: The $64 Tomato
An excerpt from William Alexander's book about the joys and tribulations of gardening.
The $64 Tomato
'I want death to find me planting my cabbages.'
— Michael Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592).
I am sitting here, in late September, at my kitchen table, cradling a ripe, heart-size Brandywine tomato in the palm of my hand. A scarce few minutes ago, it was on the vine, a living, growing organism. Now it has brought the warmth of the September noon sun into my chilly kitchen, warming my hand, almost pulsing with life. In a few moments it will be lunch, but I am in no rush to slice into this lovely fruit, the last tomato of the season.
I will miss the fresh tomatoes, the crickety sounds of summer, the lobster rolls eaten on the porch. But I am also relieved that summer is over. Gardening is often thought to be a genteel, relaxing hobby, an activity for the women of the garden club as they dally about in their straw hats, fitting lotioned hands into goatskin gloves, sipping tea under the shade of a magnolia. For me, gardening more often resembles blood sport, a never-ending battle with the weather, insects, deer, groundhogs, weeds, edgy gardeners, incompetent contractors, and the limitations of my own middle-aged body. And it turns out to be a very expensive sport.
So why do I persist? I can offer a few reasons.
First and foremost, I do it for the food. Some years ago, for better or worse, I crossed the line from gardener to family farmer, but truthfully, as long as I’ve gardened I’ve been motivated by the food. There really is nothing like a fresh August tomato. The leeks I grow taste more or less like the leeks from the supermarket; ditto the peppers and rhubarb. But a homegrown, vine-ripened tomato is probably more different from the store version than any other crop you can grow. I start salivating in June for a bacon, lettuce and tomato.
(Unfortunately I usually have to wait until August.) The food from your garden really does taste better. If you have a garden, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t have a garden, find a few square feet and grow even just one or two tomato plants. And make it worthwhile: Grow an heirloom variety such as Brandywine or Cherokee. If you’re going to grow Supersonic or Big Boy, you might as well buy them from the farm stand. If you have more room, grow leafy lettuces and greens, including some arugula. And sugar snap peas. You may be astounded by what you taste.
But of course, I don’t garden only for the food. If that were the case, I’d have done away with beds and paths a long time ago and switched to a small tractor in a field. And now, one can buy baby spinach and fresh mesclun mix at the grocery store year-round. There’s clearly another imperative or two at work here.
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>