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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Tomato Whisperer

I’ve been picking tomatoes. Huge numbers of them. I think perhaps I was born for that chore. 

My spouse does all the hard work. Preparing the soil, planting and staking, weeding and mulching.  But if he goes out to pick the fruits of his labor this time of year he is inundated by mosquitoes. Even if he wears long pants and long-sleeved shirts, both pretty brutal in this hot weather. He returns covered with mosquito bites and large red welts.

He has planted a variety of herbs and tomatoes, banana and jalapeƱo peppers in our small plot. With regular watering, our garden plants are thriving in this year’s extreme summer heat. And the vegetables and herbs are especially tasty. I’ve read that is common in extreme weather. 

But picking the vegetables, especially in the interior of the garden, can be hazardous. Foraging into the small garden almost requires a machete. Some of the larger plants, rebelling against the stakes and ties, now have spread themselves on top of other plants, apparently playing “king of the garden”. Make no mistake, this time of year our garden is a jungle. Once you are in its midst, you have to fight to get around and get back out. But the difficult journey, as with so many difficult projects, is well worth it.

The peppers and large tomatoes are discoverable once you get in the garden and lift and maneuver thought the foliage. Even the little orange cocktail tomatoes are easy to spot in the seven-foot high, four-foot wide monstrosity plant, amidst the mess of leaves and tiny, green and yellow-ripening tomatoes. The ripe colors just pop visually as I dig into the center of that plant. And then the ripe ones fall into my hand when they are ready.The trick is not eating them all before I get out of the garden.

For some reason, I can climb all through the garden in shorts and sleeveless top and the mosquitoes don’t seem to notice me. Whatever the reason, I’m happy to be able to forage for our vegetables, and particularly to be able to do so without bites. Just call me the tomato-whisperer. Or should that be mosquito-whisperer?

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