The Sad End and the Happy Beginning

| May 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

I love tomatoes.  But not those coral-pink, mealy, gross, taste-free tomatoes you usually find in the produce section at the grocery.  REAL tomatoes, the kind that come out of a garden and not out of a styrofoam tray or a clamshell package.  I have grown tomatoes now for several years just because eating a just-picked tomato is one of those sublime pleasures that makes my world stand still. It’s so good it almost shouldn’t be legal.

Last year the HH and I grew upwards of sixty pounds of tomatoes in a very small garden plot, many of them ending up canned like this one to the right.  It is, by the way, the last jar of canned tomatoes on our shelf, the last of the ones I grew with my own two hands in 2011, and so I am a bit sad.

I’m remembering not only how these jewels looked right before picking, gorgeous deep-red fragrant beauties, but also the fun I had canning them, when my friend Rachel brought over her pressure canner and we got progressively more, er, “festive” on really amazing red wine as we packaged them chopped, roasted, whole peeled, and as beautiful sauce and paste. There was loud music, steam, eating of cheese, repeated filling of glasses, howling laughter, and this amazing product to show for it all.

So as we ceremoniously pour this last jar of tomatoes into tonight’s dinner, linguine with roasted garlic and fresh bay scallops, I have the chance to remember, and smile, and relive the sheer raucous pleasure of moments like those.

Every year a circle is completed.  We use the last of the garden produce in late spring or early summer, and at the same time we are starting the plants that will become this year’s harvest.

These tiny, fragile things are this year’s Sasha’s Altai tomatoes. For anyone who’s ever wanted to grow tomatoes in cold climates or high altitudes, Siberian tomatoes (especially this variety) are just about bulletproof: cold-hardy, tough, prolific, compact, and delicious beyond description. I grow them from seed every year because you can’t just go buy them at Home Depot; I bought the seeds originally from the fantastic Seeds Trust, and save my own every year (an exercise that takes just a few minutes and I save a hundred dollars in seedlings just on tomato plants).

I’ll also grow other types, but these are the mainstay of the garden because they’ve survived late frosts, deer, cold summers, even hailstorms.  They can grow in a pot on the patio as well as in a garden plot, and once they get going they don’t need much care, tough little cossacks that they are.  My favorite late-summer pleasure is to buy or make a ball of mozzarella, and make caprese salad: Slices of warm fully-ripe tomato minutes off the vine, topped with a slice of fresh mozzarella, a big leaf of just-picked basil, and a drizzle of olive oil.

So it’s time to let go of the old, which we’ll scarf up later tonight, and fall in love with the new, which we’ll grow from a tiny seed to seemingly endless epicurean pleasures on the patio in late summer and autumn, keeping the cycle going for another beautiful year.





Category: Home, Organic, Uncategorized

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