Editorial: I have met The Tomato Woman, and she had Girl Girl’s Weird Thing

Published 7:54 am Tuesday, July 18, 2023

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Finally, my life is more complete.

For I have met The Tomato Woman.

And she was kind and good.

With a spirit that inspires.

Regular readers know that despite myself, every year at about this time, I write about the tomato. More specifically, the homegrown tomato.

Sometimes it’s the tomato sandwich (I just finished one. It had an egg on top, just so I could call it breakfast.).

Sometimes it’s the varieties of tomatoes. Those slices on that last sandwich were Cherokee Purple, which has become the most popular of the heirloom varieties. Let’s just hope it stays true to its heritage, because it really is a good tomato.

Sometimes it’s about my trips to find the perfect tomato plant, which in reality, makes little sense because I don’t know exactly what the perfect tomato plant should look like. I’ve picked losers and winners, but it’s still fun to look.

But The Tomato Woman, She Knows.

Surrounded by hundreds of feathery leaves.

Reaching for the sky, searching for the sun.

Each with its own flavor, and history, too.

I can’t remember the first time I ate a tomato, I really can’t.  I know that by the time I finished high school, tomato sandwiches were a summer staple. I’ll never forget going to a friend’s house, there were three of us, and his mom asked who wanted a tomato sandwich. She emptied a whole loaf of bread before we were finished.

I wonder if “city kids” had experiences like that?

My hope is that more and more of them are. There’s a trend for people to grow their own food, no matter the space. Even a small balcony can withstand a pot that can hold … wait for it … a tomato plant. You’ll need some sun for it to thrive, but it will grow just fine. They even have varieties that will withstand such conditions, and not get out of hand. (P.S. That same pot will hold fall, winter and spring veggies, as well. So will your outdoor gardens, so get to it people.).

But I digress.

My first tomato this year went to the wildlife. We bought one large plant early on, hoping for an early harvest. That worked. Like usual, I had been watching that tiny green orb, about the size of a ping pong ball, get larger and larger until finally it was nearing the size of a softball. And then it started to change colors. First a light pink, then darker. Then I noticed that it was turning red on the bottom. I felt it, and decided it needed about a day or two more on the vine.

I went back the next evening to make the harvest, already salivating at the thought of that first sandwich. I reached down to gently nudge it off the vine and my fingers smushed into the bottom. I wasn’t the first to salivate over that tomato. The trademark jagged bite marks on the very bottom of the tomato (It was hanging low on the vine, just above the ground.) meant that a tortoise had a meal first.

But thank goodness, all was not lost.

For The Tomato Woman was there.

With plants that appeared to be from heaven.

Kentucky Orange. Black Magic. Terhune.

Buffalo Soldier. Sungold. Grosse Verte Rose.

And what is destined, for obvious reasons.

To become my all-time favorite.

Girl Girl’s Weird Thing.

Thank you, Tomato Woman.

– Mike Barnhardt