Well, I got permission to share a great email I received from my friend Chrissy. She, like me, is a novice gardener using the SFG system. We've been emailing our trials and successes this entire season and I even agreed to a bet for a pack of seeds to the first ripe tomato. Silly me I agreed before I researched her climate. Summers in NY are radically different from Seattle. Ah well, it's all in fun.
Anyway, I got an email today that blew me away. I'll paraphrase:
"My first ripe tomato came from my plant. Oddly enough, my daughter had the first flower and the first fruit. I ran a close second but in the end, my tomato ripened quicker than hers. We ate it today. Now, I need to preface the next part by saying that I know this isn't the first thing I've grown and harvested from the garden. And while I've enjoyed the things I've harvested, it wasn't the reason I did this. My peas were great. I loved the broccoli and will plant a ton more in the fall. The lettuce I could take or leave (note to self - next time - try something other than iceberg.) Onions and garlic - couldn't taste a difference. Carrots actually tasted more bitter than store bought. More about that later. But my biggest thing with the garden was always the tomatoes. The whole thing was just about the tomatoes. So today was a big day...
My daughter and I sat down today with our first tomato. And ceremoniously cut the top, sliced it in half and took a moment. And reflected on how long it took us to get to this point. I literally took her step by step, hoping that she can appreciate how long it took us to get here.
I reminded her of the days, when it was 20 degrees with snow on the ground that we spent pouring through catalogs to pick our seeds. Getting the seeds in the mail. The constant research and reading on when to start the seeds. Charts, diagrams and garden layouts. The coffee filters and sprouting. Seeds that didn't sprout. Re-starting seeds. and tension and worrying about whether or not we would have enough tomatoes. The weeks and weeks of growing them under lights. Reminded her of how much of a pain in the ass it was to water the seeds. And when they finally took off, the re-potting. The dirt on the kitchen floor every time we did this that never seemed to go away no matter how much I vacuumed. The runs to home depot to get more shelves and more lights to accommodate the bigger plants. Hardening off the plants. Hour by hour for another two weeks.
I reminded her of the days of building the gardens. Digging up the grass. Buying the lumber. Putting it together. Buying the soil amendments and lugging it up to the house. The days of going to my mom's for fresh manure and wood chips. Bucket by bucket. Standing in shit. Shoveling it into the buckets than trying to hoist those buckets into the back of the car. Finally getting home and now carrying those buckets up to the house. At this point in my reflection, I did realize that this garden was literally built on my blood and sweat - but never tears. As frustrating and as hard as the work was, it never broke down. This realization made me take a step back.
The day we finally planted the seedlings into the garden. But the work wasn't over. We had to baby them. Covering them every night to make sure they were warm until the nighttime temp's were stable. And eventually, those little seedlings were growing and flowering. The first sign of a tomato came almost two months ago. And we watched those tomatoes grow. And grow and grow. And then they just stopped. And sat on the vines. Fully grown and green. We checked every day for signs of ripening for over six weeks until miraculously, a change of color. Just slight at first and not too much of a change. But I do have to say that at this point, the tomatoes redeemed themselves. I was expecting another two to three weeks of waiting but within a week, they were ready to go.
Which brings us back to today. Our little ceremony. I cut it in half. She took hers, I took mine. We did a little "cheers" with our tomato. And we ate our first tomato.
Was it a big tomato? Not by a long shot. A good variety?? Not from what I've heard. Will I get better later on in the season as my heirlooms mature? Absolutely. But, you asked, did it taste good??? And I have to say, it was, by far, the best f**king tomato I ever ate. This tomato took seven months, countless hours, countless sweat. The blood? More than I care to admit. The cuts, the scrapes, the bug bites is a testament to this tomato. And it was all worth it!!!"
Maybe you have to know her, but OMG was this not only made me want to will my tomato plant to grow fruit, but I wish my eldest was a bit older to share in the excitement.
On a similar note, no, that's not right. On a remotely similar note. I harvested my first green onion today. Most are ready but I made up salads this evening. If you recall, onions are not my thing, but I grew them for my wife. I used to eat green onions with my mom as a child, dipped in salt. I know wierd. So after I diced them up, I ate a ring. Wow! I was impressed. It tasted better than any onion I could recall. Good enough to put a few on my salad for tomorrow. Hehe, I'm growing.