Monday, November 28, 2022

The last tomato

Editor | November 9, 2022 12:45 PM

The sad day is coming to the Peterson household. A day of culinary sorrow.

You guessed it.

We’re down to the last home-grown tomato.

It’s sitting in the window, all red and plump and ready to be sliced and put on a pile of ham and turkey with a little mayo and some nice sandwich bread.

It will be the last fresh tomato we have for a good eight months, at least.

We have a big greenhouse in the backyard and every year I plant tomatoes in it. Not that hydroponic stuff, either, but tomatoes that are started from seed in the house in early April and then transplanted in late May or early June to the greenhouse in real dirt and chicken poop.

You might think you could put them out earlier, but you really can’t. I’ve tried planting them in mid-May, but it always seems like we get one morning that is just cold enough to kill them.

I wish I could say I carefully tend my tomatoes, but I don’t. I have the greenhouse set up with a sprinkler system that makes it easy to water, so outside of turning on the hose and doing some minimal weeding, it’s left to its own devices.

I know, I know, you’re supposed to carefully trim back tomato plants so the plant’s energy goes to the fruit and not a mess of leaves and stalks, but summer rolls around pretty quickly and a lot of things get abandoned in the backyard in favor of hikes and adventures.

I figure I only get to live once and I’d rather be out in the woods than working in a greenhouse.

There is a problem with this, of course. You go on a four-day hike and you come back and you have zucchini the size of your forearm and cucumbers that are bigger than your boot.

This year’s tomatoes started out slowly but then took off later.

They really don’t like summer heat, but September and even October were very good months. Many years (most really) we get a frost that kills everything in the greenhouse by mid-Septemberish.

But this year we didn’t get a killing cold until the first round of snow last week. In fact, some plants were still blossoming.

This year I tried a few different varieties, the standard “early girl” which didn’t ripen until well into October; some plum tomatoes and another variety that turns purple instead of red.

The purple ones tasted the best if they were fully ripe, but if they had any green, the green part was nasty and bitter.

The early girls were OK and the plums, of course, make for good sauce, but were a little on the small side.

In the end, most of them went into a huge pot and were cooked down into sauce.

As for that forearm-sized zucchini?

Well, the chickens call the greenhouse home in the winter. They’ve got six month to pick away at it.

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