Friday, August 28, 2009

The Beauty of My Tomatoes

Last year, my garden died. This sad demise came from a combination of sparse rainfall resulting in near drought conditions and a busy life that gave me no time for weeding or watering. I didn't get a single thing from my early spring planting, a situation I was determined not to repeat this year. My favorites plants to grow and the things I just can't live without are tomatoes and basil. Utilizing reason, I decided to hedge my bets and plant even more of these than I had last year—thinking this way I could manage to keep one or two alive.

We had a banner rain year.

We had uncommonly cool, often overcast conditions.

I'm sure all that organic compost also had an effect.

We grew a tomato hedge. It is 20 feet long, nearly five feet tall and practically throws tomatoes at you when you walk by. We have been eating buckets of tomatoes for six weeks, now, and there is no sign of slow-down in tomato growth on the vines. We’ve had fresh salsa, fresh pasta sauce, tomato and bean salad, we have roasted them, braised them and finally—when I realize we were never going to be able to eat them—I blanched and froze them. The lower foliage of this hedge is made up of my sixteen basil plants. Recently, I picked and processed an entire trash-bag full of basil! In addition to the many bags of frozen tomatoes that will lend themselves to sauces, soups, and pots of chili, we will be eating pesto all winter long!

I never expected such an explosion. It has occasionally been alarming to watch this hedge grow. But picking them and popping them into my mouth fresh off the vine is one of my favorite summer pleasures. In honor of my tomatoes, I wrote the following poem. I hope you enjoy this journey into my garden life and kitchen. I would love to hear about yours.

The Beauty of My Tomatoes

I wish I could describe the beauty
of my tomatoes
so you could see them

In the bamboo steaming basket
my black granite counter-top

Oblong and bright red or
pale orange with streaks of green or
yellow ones
perfectly round and tiny as a dime

Light from the window
falls over them
brushes their skins
with gold

Were I a photographer
I would not have to
to explain

That these are not my big tomatoes
those beef-steaks sit
in round legions
like bright buns rising
on a lime-green dish towel

These are my other tomatoes
my cherrys and romas
tumbled together
in the straw-colored basket

I pick one to eat
the still-life altered
by my desire
for sweetness and
the taste the summer on my tongue

They are humble in size
but not in brilliance
they sit boldly in the fading light
urging me to eat

I wish I could bring

Into this moment

Where a tomato bursts
ripe and fresh
between my teeth

So you could see
with your two eyes
and taste
with your own lips
the beauty of my tomatoes


Julia said...

I love this. I wish I could have walked amongst your garden with you this summer, talking and enjoying the sunshine. <3

lakshmi said...

Hi Julia! It is lovely here--if you can forget about the bugs. :>