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My Tomato

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.

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Reader Comments (18)

That has to be the most perfect tomato ever. Not a spot or a blemish and completely symmetrical. A work of art. You appreciated it, but Lou enjoyed it. Here's hoping the others ripen for your enjoyment!

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

ha ha ha!! You might want to keep your next tomato a little closer to your side! I have a mystery tomato that popped up in my garden this year. I'm really looking forward to seeing what kind of tomatoes it grows. Your tomato looks gorgeous! I hope mine are as perfect! :o)

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCasa Maripoas

I can't believe you already have a ripe tomato! We seem to be afflicted with another cold spring, and I'm hoping summer shapes up to be warmer than year. We have 20 varieties of tomatoes planted this year, but so far we only have blooms, no fruit. Nice tip about the inedible red-accents, I wish that worked on squirrels!

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCurbstone Valley Farm

Oh that was a wonderful post! Spellbinding ;~(0)

Deb -

our Karoo Koppie

and here is the real thing
'koppie' is a small hill, the Great Karoo is a huge semi-desert part of South Africa, the Little Karoo nearer us has winter rainfall.

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElephant's Eye

I think the smell of tomato plants in the sunshine is as nice as the flavour of the tomatoes themselves.

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterb-a-g

hahaha - Good thing you will have many more tomatoes! My first one has just become ripe. I'm not eyeing it to eat - I'm planning to save its seed. Hopefully there will be lots more to eat later on. Yours was very photogenic!

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHolley

Deborah, A lesson learned; never let a tomato out of your sight! Nothing like to taste of a sun ripened tomato from your own garden.

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris

That is one pretty tomato! I'm glad you will have more to come. I like the idea of the red cages. The birds seem to enjoy my tomatoes. :/ Your veggies look very healthy!!

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

This is a great post. I don't consider myself a veggie gardener either, but like you, if I start to enumerate all the veggies and fruit I grow it takes up quite a bit of space :). I didn't know half the things you wrote about tomatoes (were they really forbidden by the church of Rome ??). I reminds me of the story of introduction of potatoes to Russia in the 18th century. Before, peasants used to eat mostly cabbage which is low in calories, and mortality was high. When the first potatoes were planted and grew, however, Russian peasants tried to eat the little fruits that form on top of the bushes. They tasted bad and weren't plentiful considering the size of the plant. The tsar ended up sending special people around villages to educate peasants on which part of the potato plant is edible and how to cook it :).

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMasha

I am so jealous, my tomatoes are only like photo two. I like the red cages, a little fashion sense along with the practical.

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

Ha, I'm glad one of you got to enjoy the tomato! It was a beauty, but it looks like there are many more to come.

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay

That looks so yummy and succulent Debs! It leaps out from the screen...:)

June 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

Your tomatoes look amazing! I hope mines grow as good.
Home grown tomatoes taste great don't they?. I remember last year when I tried my first, it was completely different to any other

June 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterfer

Oh no, how disappointing. My tomatoes are the size of golf balls right now, which is the biggest they have ever been this time of year. I am very excited.

That is -- or I should say was -- one beautiful tomato, Deb. It will be many weeks before we have ripe tomatoes here. I assume you are going to hide the next one and make sure you get your share. It's a good thing you really love Lou!

June 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJean

Oh there is just nothing like the taste and smell of a homegrown tomato - I hope Lou lets you taste the next one :)

June 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRosie leavesnbloom

Wow, this tomato definitely would have passed any agriculture standard inspection.
No blemish at all, perfect in shape and color and obviously it was just delicious in it's taste. ;)

tomatoes already...I have begun to get some tiny fruits...I have to net mine to keep the foraging animals at bay as well as the husband...

June 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDonna
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