I have tomatoes coming out of my … ears. Well, that’s one way to put it.
Today marks one year of marriage to my sweetheart, 13 months of homeownership in Utah’s best neighborhood (The Fairpark, for those not in the know), and approximately 4 months of joint stewardship over my very first garden.
Joint stewardship sounds nice, doesn’t it? That’s my diplomatic way of saying that my husband spends about 12 hours every week weeding, watering, harvesting, hoeing, and digging, while I hang out in our cold-as-a-meat-locker basement working on meaningless assignments that’ll put me one step closer to a Master’s degree. It’s a pretty sweet arrangement, at least on my end. I have an amazing partner.
Anyway, we got a little overzealous when planting, and ended up with some 15 varieties of heirloom tomatoes in our yard. And they’re starting to fruit. I won’t even try to name them all, but to give you a taste, we’re growing Yellow Pear, Juliet, Dr. Wyche’s, Black from Tula, HillBilly Flame, Pink Oxheart, and Yellow Roma plants, among others. They’re all delicious.
So now I need to learn how to can. This is an activity I remember participating in as a child, though not fondly. But it’s a necessity because, like I said, we’ve got too many tomatoes, and I won’t let them go to waste. We’d rather eat our organic heirlooms this winter than the tasteless, mealy varieties that you get in so much plastic packaging at the store. If Granny could see me now, she’d be so proud.
The overwhelming quantity of tomatoes that I currently have on hand gives me hope. That sounds totally dumb, so allow me to explain. We spent so much time building planter boxes and hauling manure to make our brick-like soil more hospitable to gardening that we didn’t do a whole lot of research on the varieties we planted, or on growing tomatoes in general. I’ll admit it: as novice gardeners we failed our plants where adequately sized cages and regular watering are concerned. The plants are spaced to closely. And we had no idea that some would fruit all at once, while others will steadily fruit through September. Or that different varieties like different types of soil. And yet, despite our spectacular incompetence, we’ve got tomatoes like you’ve never seen! (Okay, maybe you have – tomatoes, it turns out, are pretty easy to grow)
My tomatoes give me hope because gardening is something that anyone can do. And if you’ve seen that great little Ted Talk, My Subversive (Garden) Plot, you know that gardening can be a pretty sweet tool in your arsenal of community action. Like the simple act of voting or showing up and participating in your community council, gardening is a direct action with the potential upend the balance of power, even if only a little bit at a time. Every time I eat a homegrown tomato, I’m eating something that I planted, cultivated, and picked myself. Delicious summer salads at my home no longer depend upon the exploitation of farm workers, and we’ve reduced our carbon footprint and our grocery bill, as well.
I admit, gardening is a luxury. I didn’t have a garden until I bought my home, and many renters will face challenges trying to garden (in which case, container gardening is your friend). And gardening takes a lot of time, so people who are working many jobs to make ends meet might not have time to grow their own food. To be sure, getting started with a garden can be an expensive proposition, though it doesn’t have to be.
But even so, if you can garden, you should. Food prices are rising, and once started, gardening is fairly inexpensive. Obesity is a growing problem in our society, and homegrown food is healthy and tastes so much better than the vegetables in the stores. Gardening is relaxing. There’s just something peaceful about watering veggies, and there’s something truly cathartic about destroying unwanted weeds.
So roll up your sleeves and start a garden next spring… And until then, does anyone want some tomatoes?