Unripe for the Picking

The heirloom tomato plant currently residing in our back yard is the first green thing I have ever not killed. In fact, it is thriving. For months now I have watered, fertilized, supported, and talked to it. I have pounded on its stake at high noon to increase the flavor of its pulp (OK, only once. Still. That’s zeal.) I have delighted over every new tendril, admired every burgeoning blossom, cheered at each strengthening stem. I provided it with companions: two cherry tomato plants that were a gift from a fellow blogger (one, I might add, who does not consider keeping a plant alive to be the biggest miracle since Lazarus.)

The companions, too, received my largesse. I never missed a day of care for any of them. For weeks and weeks on end water flowed, sun was sought out, bugs were shooed, brown leaves were cut off. When we went out of town I worried more about the tomato plants than our dog. Of course, the former don’t rack up hundreds of dollars of property damage every time we turn our backs, so perhaps it makes sense. In any event, the plants survived my absence brilliantly. When we returned I ran to greet them, shrieking like a teen fan.

All of this, of course, in the hopes and expectations of delectable, fresh tomatoes. To eat. For me. Of course for my family as well — I’m not a selfish jerk. But I really love tomatoes. They’re candy, with seeds. And sometimes a slight excess of chewy skin. Still, I can eat them by the pint. And so I planned to do, with mine.

Until I realized something. Something frustrating and mildly tragic. No, it’s not that they won’t produce. Because they will. They are. Each of the three plants is fruiting prodigiously. Most of what’s there is still green, but everything is on the verge. I have even managed to harvest and ingest three cherry tomatoes from one of the companion plants. They were perfect. Many, many more are immanent.

And I will not be here to eat them.

MJ and I leave for vacation tomorrow. For three weeks. During which time my much-tended plants will ripen to perfection. Large, purple-black heirlooms, small sweet orange cherries, mid-sized red and green yum-yums, all of these will droop from their vines, lush and fruitful, like something from the Song of Solomon. But surrounded by cinderblocks.

Mike will have to eat them all. He and his friends. Some of whom are outstanding cooks, so at least I know my harvest won’t go to waste. Still, there is something heart-breaking in having worked so hard on something and not getting to consume the final product. Especially with my history.

So I have done what I can: I have asked Mike to e-mail me pictures. I will shed a tear or two from afar, when I see those babies — all grown up! — in their full color and rotundity. I will wish him and his friends bon appetite. Perhaps I will ask for pictures of the sauces they concoct. Or is that morbid?

And then I will head for the Lunenberg farmer’s market. In Nova Scotia, where we will be. They have ridiculously gorgeous produce up there. Biblical, indeed. I will gorge myself on heirloom tomatoes, juicy, sweet, and totally Canadian. I will eat cherry tomatoes by the handful. I will laugh with appreciation. I will miss my husband. I will miss L.A.

And I will congratulate myself on my first successful sort-of harvest.

That’s modern life for you. Locally grown, internationally ingested. By proxy.

With or without cinderblocks.

2 thoughts on “Unripe for the Picking

  1. Pingback: Market Up! « thumbstumbler

  2. Pingback: Rough Landing « thumbstumbler

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