It’s time that I came clean. I love tomatoes. No really. I love them. Not the languishing in the produce aisle in February variety. Sorry. You may label me a tomato snob, but I can’t help it. If you’ve ever tasted an heirloom tomato fresh from your garden, still warm from sunlight, then you’ll understand. If you haven’t, get thee to a local farmer’s market. Immediately.
Seasonal tomatoes should really not be expected to share the name “tomato” with the Fruit that Shall Not be Named. You know, the February variety that I’ve already mentioned. I don’t like to make hard and fast rules about what I will or will not eat. I try not to paint things with too broad of a brush where food is concerned. Tomatoes are an exception. I will buy tomatoes at the farmer’s market when our tomato plants still need weeks in the summer sun to set and ripen. I will not buy tomatoes when snow is two feet deep outside my front door.
I’ve been growing heirloom tomatoes for the last four years in our garden. When other people are buying their gallon sized tomato plants at the local nursery, we’ve already been tending seedlings for months. That’s right-we grow them from seed. We sow them. We let them live in our house under a special blend of fluorescent lights. We thin them. We transplant them several times. We water them at least once a day with a spray bottle. We run our hands over the top of them to encourage the vines to be stronger.
Okay, I didn’t intend to make us sound like tomato fanatics. But maybe we are. In fact, who am I kidding? I might as well drop the maybe and admit to being a card-carrying member of the tomato lunatics club. We love them. We put in six month’s worth of gardening by the time the first tomato ripens. We celebrate the arrival of the first cherry tomato, followed by the first slicing tomato.
This year, we planted over 60 heirloom tomato plants in our garden. I could say that it was too many, but I don’t think that it was. We haven’t let one go to waste yet. We eat them every way possible and yet they never get old.
Trying to grow tomatoes in a part of the country with a growing season shorter than 90 days is a bit crazy. It’s like trying to catch sunlight in a jar without a lid. It’s impossible. It’s frustrating. But, when I watch my kids walk through the tomato patch surveying this year’s crop, sampling a sun-kissed cherry tomato, it’s suddenly all worth it.
While I’m coming clean, you know when I mentioned being in the tomato lunatics club? I’ve decided to run for president next year.