I Quit Tomatoes

As a youngest child, I do not believe that I should be expected to share. People are supposed to share with me. And though I have worked very hard over the past several decades to get over my aversion for the practice, sharing the food on my plate is still difficult for me. That’s why I always cook pasta by the pound even though there are only the two of us. For me, sharing requires a sense of plenty.

I knew from the first time I ever picked up a trowel that I was not the type of person to be able to grow food, I just knew it. For one thing, you end up expecting stuff: I plant you, I water you, I give you sun; and you give me something yummy to eat in return. I could never really trust an inanimate object to live up to a bargain like that. If a flowering plant fails to bring something forth, that’s different: I may be disappointed, but I won’t be hungry.

It’s never a good thing for me to be hungry.

But it gets worse: if you grow food-type stuff, you are going to be competing with critters for your own dinner. Lots of critters, some of them really disgusting. They will come along and chew up leaves and stems, insinuate themselves into new fruits, run off with nearly ripe things you’ve awaited for months, show up in your sink when you rinse off whatever you were planning to eat – no, it’s all too yucky for me. I’m a city girl. Even Central Market and Whole Foods sell perfectly delicious local tomatoes, not a disgusting creature in sight.

It’s not that I don’t admire people who can grow food, I do. What they accomplish seems truly miraculous to me. In fact, I enjoy going to the farmer’s market on a Saturday morning (and I have three excellent ones from which to choose, all within five miles of my house). Wouldn’t it be ungrateful not to support local organic farmers in their attempts to earn a living in the forbidding conditions of central Texas?

This year, I gave up on tomatoes. When Floyd wanted to put some in last year, I set aside my generally pessimistic position and set up a “square-foot garden” in the back yard. Floyd made an elaborate cage against mammal invasion, and being repeatedly scratched with half-inch chicken wire seemed a small price to pay. Despite my doubts, we produced a great number of delicious tomatoes which we enjoyed in many caprese salads and frozen quarts of marinara sauce that pleased us all winter.

So in March of this year, I went ahead and put in some tomato plants. I chose Romas and some sort of cherry tomatoes and a couple of other varieties. I went through my usual ongoing internal battle: too much water? No flavor. Too little water? Straw. I did my best, honest. Besides, we had such a pleasant spring that I hardly did any watering at all. The kale and chard plants we put in to enhance our morning juices did very well.

But aside from the cherries, not one tomato was fit to eat: for reasons I don’t even wish to comprehend, our lovely-looking tomatoes tasted like wet foam.  Perhaps that’s related to the blossom-end rot they then developed. Like I said, I don’t even want to know, because I am not going to do anything to correct whatever I did wrong.

Because I quit.

Life is too short to risk that level of disappointment on things you can obtain so easily elsewhere. Pulled the damn plants out of the ground and mashed them into leaf bags to go haunt the landfill or the compost machine or wherever Austin greenery is taken to break down.

Drove to the Natural Gardener, bought a few bags of new soil for the square-foot garden, and planted basil and Spanish lavender.

I feel so much better that I wouldn’t have any problem sharing a plate of Marcella Hazan’s unspeakably wonderful pesto with pasta, potatoes, and green beans.

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