Last year, we decided to take our love for that most delicious, transcendental of summer vegetables to new heights. We built a 100 square foot, raised redwood garden bed to be the incubator and home for our tomato seedlings. If you’ve ever grown a tomato yourself, watching it’s transformation from a tiny seedling to a jungle of branches and fruits and waited with near-indecent anticipation for that first succulent, juicy fruit to be ready; and then taken the first bite of a fresh-off-the-vine tomato (washing optional)), you can understand our passion (and perhaps financially irrational act. After all, financially speaking, the breakeven point for that garden bed will be about 20 years, but it will be twenty years of tomato indulgence. I think eating a home-grown tomato under the summer sun, it’s juice and seeds running down your face, should be a pleasure enjoyed by everyone. It is the simplest and most sublime of culinary pleasures and puts to shame those red imposters to tomato-ness that you find in your local grocery store. I’m not saying I hear the Hallelujah Chorus when I take that first bite, but I have heard faint strains of Puccini (I swear)
Our extravagant expression of tomato love was rewarded with a crop of tomatoes that exceeded even our own most optimistic hopes. Simply put: we loved and were loved back. Black Krims (my gangsta tomato), Sun Gold, Lemon Boy, Japanese Black Truffle, Brandywine -varieties that had before given us rich taste but lackluster growth, all ran rampant in that bed. Halfway through the season, we were forced to add extra supports to the Sun Gold whose runaway growth, practically screamed “Give me land, lots of land… Don’t fence me in”. Now, I know the tomato experts are be scoffing, thinking that we must have been using those ridiculously tiny tomato cages you see in your local big box garden store. Bah.. we scoff at those. Did I mention that we were not tomato virgins? We were intrepid travelers into the land of tomato rearing. We had travelled this path before so we knew that those tiny seedlings you buy at the garden store are very deceptive, and would eventually demolish and almost eat those tomato cages. So, much research over the years, we had arrived on a wonderful solution: cattle panels reinforced by t-posts. This stuff is ¼ in of steel. It keeps cattle in. When those panels began to bend under the weight of tomatoes, we knew we had done good. Sure, it would take another 15 years to reach breakeven point, but who cared? Not us. We were drowning in tomatoes.
And that wall of tomatoes provided a source of shade and picturesque backdrop for al fresco dining all summer long.
And our tomato-worthy friends and neighbors were only to happy to relieve us of those that we were willing to share.