Monday, February 18, 2019

Heirloom Tomato

Back in September of 2015, in anticipation of my parents arrival to Florida to spend winter with us, I planted some tomato seeds. It was in hope against hope, given my steady track record of failure. A preemptive strike against boredom they threatened would most certainly kill them inside our home in American suburbia.

The seeds sprouted – I’ve seen that before, and by the time Mom and Dad arrived they were the size of respectable seedlings.  That’s as far as my success ever reached. Respectable seedlings.  Only a whiff of a promise of home-grown tomato, nothing more.  

With little else to do, my parents threw themselves into caring for the garden.  Raking, watering, pruning, and tending to the seedlings.  Under their supervision they grew and grew, their limbs stretching tall until they had to be staked, and eventually the first blooms appeared followed by the tiny round balls.  

With my own eyes, I got to see the tomato in the making, and it was … marvelously addictive.

We ate the tomatoes off those vines all through June the following year. Before they left, my Mom made sure to set aside some seeds for the next year’s planting.

Those children were eaten in 2017, and their children in 2018.

I admit at times I was tempted to abandon the whole idea, but it must be in my blood now because sooner or later, despite all objections I can’t help but…It's my version of The Call of the Wild. 

Usually, we would have a few plants, a dozen at the most, which is plenty to ‘service’ our tomato-devouring family.

Last year, the day after Christmas, against all rational reason, I opened the bag of what I guess we can  now 'officially' call 'heirloom' tomato seeds and did it again. As I said, normally we only had few tomato plants which was just about all I could handle. This weekend I counted fifty-six tomato seedlings that have sprouted from a single tomato! Fifty-six!!!  I wonder if we should be a Guinness Book of World records?

We went to the landfill to get compost and I scrounged for pots in the garden corners and the back of the garage.  I washed all that I found and filled them with warm, wet dirt, poking a hole for each seedling, then gently slipping it in.  

Now there is an army of pots on my back patio! 

I can’t help but feel a bit possessive, like a mother with a brood of babies she doesn’t want to entrust to some neglectful stranger. I don’t want them to go to someone who will take them only because they were free (or cheap) and then throw them into a corner of the yard and forget about them until they are all dead.

I want my babies to go to someone who will nurture them, give them what they need and protect them from adversaries of all kinds. Someone who would tend to them until they are filled with blooms and produce a bumper-crop of tomatoes for all to enjoy. 

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