Back in mid April I planted out my little vegetable plot. I don't consider myself a vegetable gardener; I concentrate on decorative and landscape plants. But after tasting a home grown tomato, one needs only a square foot of sunshine to latch onto the dream of growing one's own, for those mealy, tasteless orbs sold in grocery stores don't compare to the real thing. There is a reason tomatoes are the most popular vegetable (technically a fruit) grown in American gardens.
Homegrown tomatoes are not only delicious, they are also high in nutrients that promote heart health, strong bones, and a healthy immune system. Studies indicate tomatoes reduce risk of colon and prostate cancers and offer natural protection against UV rays of the sun. It's amazing that some people once thought tomatoes were poisonous. Indeed, tomatoes are in the solanaceae family, a cousin to the potentially deadly belladonna, or nightshade plant. And it is true that stems and leaves of tomatoes are noxious, especially in large amounts. Nevertheless, the tomato is more likely to live up to its other reputation as an aphrodisiac. It has been called the 'love apple' and was once banned by the Church of Rome for its lascivious properties.
Before planting I amended the soil with compost, and then after planting I used an organic fertilizer specially formulated for tomatoes. In about 150 square feet I have a dozen tomato plants, along with pole beans, lima beans, squash, sweet peppers, carrots, and onions. I planted basil near the tomato plants, because I read that basil improves tomato flavor and deters pests. Before the heat arrived, I also had several types of lettuce, but those bolted many weeks ago. My vegetables get full sun, and I keep the area watered regularly. Tomato plants need about a gallon of water each, at least three times a week. Consistent heat up in the 90s and high humidity will decrease pollination, so tomatoes often pitter out by mid July here. The high temperatures and drought we have had over the past few weeks have been worrisome.
I kept a vigil over my tomatoes and other vegetables. I was happy to see lots of tomato blossoms.
A trick to keep birds uninterested in tomatoes is to have inedible red accents in the garden. My red tomato cages serve this purpose. The theory is the birds become accustomed to the color red and thus are not drawn to the ripened fruit. For the most part this has worked for me.
Tiny green fruit followed the yellow blooms, and, day by day, with each gallon of water I poured on the plants, the fruit grew. A flush of color finally appeared as they approached maturity. A Parks Whopper was the first to color up, and it was a beauty. I fantasized what I was going to do with this tomato: a grilled tomato sandwich with provolone cheese and fresh basil.
Last week the tomato was fully ripe. There wasn't a blemish on it. I brought it into the house and took a bunch of pictures of it. I left it on the cutting board next to a knife I used as a prop in one of the shots, and I went about my business. But the tomato was in my thoughts.
Around noon I came inside, anticipating my lunch. I halted when I saw the cutting board. The tomato was gone. The knife was there, a few bits of red skin and the stem beneath the blade.
It seems my dear hubby Lou had been eyeing that tomato, too! He assures me that it was delicious.