Monday, August 31, 2009

Northeast Tomato Tragedy of 2009

My idea of sensory perfection:

I am slowly wandering barefoot through a vast, wild garden, when I stumble across some bandit cherry tomatoes. A warm breeze wafts the earthy aroma of the tomato plants. I pick a defiant little fruit and pop it into my mouth; it is warm from the hot sun. It bursts between my teeth. Delightful! Gently, a cool rain creeps in, releasing nutrients from dirt into the mist. I inhale the air of life living.

Nothing smells quite like a tomato plant. Anyone who has grown tomatoes just knows what I mean. Right now, we should be bombarded with tomatoes in the Northeast, they should be popping out of garbage cans and tires and anything else deemed to be an effective plant container. We should be eating them like apples with sea salt, with the freshest mozzarella, in pastas and sauces, canning them for bleak winter, they should be coming out of our ears!

2009 has not been kind to the tomato. Here in the Northeast, late blight and a wet summer has left our tomatoes with soggy bottoms and gray fungus. Boooooo!

I grew my tomatoes from seed this year. I started them in March, that mercurial lamb-beast of a month, in the windowsill of my Washington Heights apartment. In the beginning, the best way to describe them would be "dinky." They were runts, city kids, compared to their hearty, country-grown cousins. Walmart, the root of the insidious late blight and all evils, sold infected plants more than triple the size of my plants to their uninformed customers! You see, people want plants, but they don't want to care for plants. Give 'em a genetically-modified, almost-mature tomato plant so they'll see progress immediately, feel that they've done something important, when in reality that plant already spent 75% of its life in some scary Walmart greenhouse being cared for by exploited workers with massive amounts of pesticides. Mmm, tasty.

Well, the opposite of that is this: my homegrown heirlooms with olive oil, torn basil and salt in the very window of their early lives! Look how far they've come!

Simply amazing.


  1. We grew tomatoes from seeds, too ... and now have more than we know what to do with. My friend Sue took a bunch of them and made homemade sauce - it's a tad watery but tasty!

  2. Have you every tried playing classical music for your plants to help them grow? I don't really understand how that would work seeing as tomato plants very obviously lack ears but it does seem like a nice gesture.

    If treating your plants nicely and playing music for them helps them thrive then it really shouldn't be surprising that the GM Walmart tomato plants who are reared in warehouses and bare witness to the unethical treatment of immigrant workers would fall victim to soggy bottoms. Perhaps this is the tomato's way of shedding tears...