Friday, October 9, 2009

Home-Grown Tomatoes

Everyone knows there is nothing like a home-grown tomato. When I was a kid we used to walk through Uncle Don's tomato patch on hot sunny days with a salt shaker eating tomatoes off the vine. Yum! You don't get that kind of flavor from store-bought tomatoes. I'll do without before I'll eat one of those hard, tasteless things.

Practically everyone I knew grew tomatoes back in Kentucky. Bragging rights went to the person with the first vine-ripened tomato of the season and anyone with ripe tomatoes for the Fourth of July. By August the problem was finding somebody who didn't already have tomatoes on every counter-top in the kitchen to take your surplus.

You would think with the heat and longer growing season that tomatoes would be easier to grow in Georgia than they are in Kentucky. Not for me. I did have a decent crop the first year or two I was here. One thing or another has foiled any and all attempts to grow my own tomatoes ever since.

Disease wiped out the crop one year. Tomato plants are highly susceptible to everything but swine flu. For best results I read you need to start your own plants from seed. I did. We had gorgeous tomato plants...tall, lush, healthy plants covered with flowers...until the deer munched every single one down to the ground.

After that we had a drought. As the drought intensified the city ordered watering restrictions and finally a total ban on outdoor watering. Ever try growing tomatoes without water? The universe was telling me to quit. So I did, certain I could rely on the kindness of neighbors and coworkers to provide me with at least a few home-grown tomatoes every summer.

None of my neighbors grow tomatoes or any kind of vegetables for that matter. Very few of my coworkers grow tomatoes. If they do everyone they know wants any extras they have. I've begged, told sad stories about my tomato-free existence, and worked my big, sad, puppy-dog brown eyes for all they are worth to no avail.

This year I found the Farmer's Market. When I was a kid you went to the Farmer's Market to get super fresh produce for half of what you'd pay at the grocery store. Now you pay twice as much for vegetables grown organically on sustainable, boutique farms run by new-age yuppies and hippies.

After paying $5 per pound for admittedly delicious tomatoes for several weeks, the presence of mature tomato plants in pots at my local garden center in August got my attention. At $15 I only needed to get a few tomatoes to make it a better deal than the $5 per pound I was paying at the Farmer's Market. Besides, everything tastes better when you grow it yourself. So I bought one.

Re-potted it into a bigger pot ($5 more) with nice dirt ($3) and slow-release fertilizer (came free in the mail) and discovered white flies. Sprayed the plant with the crap that kills white flies ($15). Watered it in between the torrential rains we had in September. The water isn't free, but I'll throw it in.

Squirrels sampled the first two before we could. The next one split open from all the rain. There are still three little green tomatoes we might be able to fry up in a few weeks if they grow larger than grapes.

That makes this little guy my harvest for the year. I'll sell it to you...for $40, which would make my tomatoes about $160 per pound. Guess $5 per pound isn't so bad after all. Dammit.

The Crotchety Old Man

No comments:

Follow CrotchetyMan on Twitter