I sat down to talk about enchiladas. Tasty enchiladas. Tasty, authentic, homemade enchiladas. Enchiladas from the fabulous Pati Jinich of Pati’s Mexican Table fame. That will come someday, because they were really *really* tasty enchiladas!!
This morphed into a garden post. It’s mostly about tomatoes, with a wee bit of my outlook on life. The good, the bad, and the ugly :)
Q: What do you get when you cross a man with a disappointing tomato crop and a lady whose glass is half-full in spite of the tomato vines dying too soon?
A: I’m not sure what you would get, but around here we got a mess of watery, tasteless tomatoes tossed on at the compost heap.
That is sure to make some raccoon very happy tonight ;)
Ahhh, garden tomatoes. They can make your heart leap with joy, or they can crush it like a vise. How we yearn for them in the winter. We gaze longingly at the colorful pictures in the catalog, and after much discussion, choose and order the seeds. We watch for the postman, and worry that the package may arrive to an empty house and oh — horrible thought — freeze if we aren’t home! It may sound crazy but it’s true. That’s how we think up here in the north woods.
Then comes the happy day when the seeds arrive, to be safely carried into the warm house. There is much oohing and aahing over the pictures on the packets. We feel like pioneers. The garden is everything, and the tomato is king. Surely our tomatoes will look just like those pictures, and taste even better. We get out the calendar and talk about the last frost date.
From tiniest seeds planted with care by the warmth of the wood stove while the frigid February wind blows, the emerging seedlings are tended as one would tend a child. As winter wanes, we watch them anxiously — are they too leggy? too wet? too dry? It’s all in the hands of the garden gods. When spring finally arrives, the hopeful little babies are set out in the garden. If it’s a good year, we are rewarded with more fruit than we can handle — jam and chutney flow through our veins. Other years, the vines struggle and the fruit we harvest may not be as tasty as we’d dreamed way back in the chill of February. Still, any tomato plucked from the garden is a thousand times better than the hard, waxy balls from the grocery store.
If the tomatoes aren’t great, one could argue that it’s an off year for the garden. I respectfully disagree.
In the spirit of my lately-completed law class (with a hard-won “A”, too!), I offer the following evidence ;)
Corn is in tassel and silk
The peppers (hot and sweet varieties) are a success as usual, and there will be carrots for weeks to come. Papdi beans are coming on now. Pole beans are flourishing among the sunflowers and we are entertained by the bees (finally!) visiting.
Brussels sprouts plants are standing tall. The winter squash and Korean radish have exceeded even my optimistic expectations — with the latter literally vaulting out of the ground! Who knew?
The herbs are growing nicely — some already dried for winter use.
It’s true: with the notable exception of those pictured here, this year’s tomatoes have been something of a bust.
Still I can’t complain!
For years I dreamed of attending the Carmel Tomatofest in sunny California — not for the California sunshine but for the amazing array of heirloom tomatoes on display. Check out the photo on the link above — it’s good enough to eat, and lucky attendees could try each and every one! The classic Tomatofest has since merged with another festival featuring even more good things, but its tomato-only avatar lived on in my mind. I always wanted to have a mini-version of my own. Today, thanks mostly to dear G’s hard work, I finally made it happen. Only four varieties were featured — all the testers could handle ;)
We may not have a huge tomato-canning venture this year, but nevermind. There is plenty of tomato bounty left from last fall, and crop is not a total loss. There are some ripening yet, and the cherry tomatoes are doing well. If the garden gods smile upon us, we’ll have tomato fest part two in a few weeks with a few other varieties — either way I have a feeling that tomatoes will be simmering before September is out. Besides, I managed to make a small batch of ISG’s tasty thokku the other day. And that made me very happy.
We take the bitter with the sweet in this life.
I firmly believe there’s no great loss without some small gain (though I am not sure dear G would count attracting raccoons as a gain). ;)
For me, it’s all about enjoying the moment and trying to be happy with and thankful for what I’ve got. It’s really not that hard. Anyone can choose to be happy, or choose to be unhappy.
I choose to be happy, and I won’t let anything stand in the way :)
**For anyone interested (and for my own journal!) the results were:
Park’s Whopper (7.6 oz) — tartest taste, my #1, G’s #4
Mr. Stripey (9.2 oz) — sweetest taste, a little spicy, unanimous #2
Golden Jubilee (5.6 oz) — a little sweet, peachy, unanimous #3
Beefsteak (5.9 oz) — G thought “pretty good” I thought “bland, watery”, G’s #1, my #4
Amish paste was not rated — it’s more a mealy cooking tomato.