“That Plump Thing with a Navel”

How it all began: Tomatoes are thought to originate in Peru. The name comes from the Aztec “xitomatl,” which means “plump thing with a navel”. ~~  Fun Facts

combine

When I first began this blog I thought it would be easy enough to find things to write about all year round.  After all, this is California, where bearded iris bloom in January and roses flourish all year round, but I’ve found out that there is almost too much happening at the peak of a season. I appear to prefer the change-over months, the in-between times — the times of beginnings and endings.

The flowers were abundant this summer — maybe too abundant — it proved difficult to focus on any one thing when there were color and pattern everywhere.  I loved spring, when the new plants were set out and enjoyed following the drama when an unusual late frost threatened the new seedlings.  The vegetable garden quickly took most of my attention once I recorded the promise of newly set fruits on the autumn bearing trees (they are coming very close now!).

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.~~ May Sarton 

tomatoes

The tomatoes became the story of the season. They flourished.  They became ridiculous! They threatened to take over the entire vegetable section.  The quickly outgrew their cages and escaped their plots and exploded across the disappearing pathways.  They grew so wildly that it was work to find the actual tomatoes in the center of the plots.

But Autumn is here and the vines are dying back.  Most of the leaves are gone now and the remaining tomatoes glow like fairy lights strung through the naked vines.

cherry

naked

mix

I love the color spread in that last photo.  And speaking of color, these below are the current stars of the garden:

black

Their bottoms are finally turning red, which means they are ready to eat.  They are a sweet-tasting fruit — nice but nothing special in flavor.  Just an ordinary tomato, despite their exotic appearance.

Heaviest tomato. The heaviest tomato on record weighed in at 3.51 kg (7 pounds 12 ounces). A “delicious” variety, it was grown by Gordon Graham of Edmond, Oklahoma in 1986. Gordon sliced the tomato to make sandwiches for 21 family members. ~~ Fun Facts

While this baby  doesn’t begin to compete in actual pounds, it does look more like a small pumpkin than a tomato —

pumpkin

I think we all have a dream of what it would be like not to work and grow heirloom tomatoes, and I do have that dream. It would be lovely. I do love gardening and all of that, but I do love my work. ~~ Helen Mirren 

I’ll end today with my favorite out of this current batch of quotes.  Happy October, all!

Just when you’re beginning to think pretty well of people, you run across somebody who puts sugar on sliced tomatoes. ~~ Will Cuppy 

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So Much Better When You Grow Your Own

“More grows in the garden than the gardener sows.” – Old Spanish Proverb

One of my favorite things about Summer is the anticipation of wonderful things to come…tomatoes

There are so far only a couple of actual small unripe tomatoes, but the plants are overflowing their plot and it isn’t hard to imagine the juicy red riches they are going to produce — any day now.

And, of course, you’ll need lots of basil and rosemary to go with them.

dual

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden?” ~~ Robert Brault

It is ridiculously easy to wax lyrical about tomatoes — freshly made pasta sauce — the simple joy of a sliced tomato layered with fresh mozzarella and basil — or just a warm tomato straight from the vine– but I think the thing that provides the most anticipation in Summer is fruit.

This special feeling towards fruit, its glory and abundance, is I would say universal…. We respond to strawberry fields or cherry orchards with a delight that a cabbage patch or even an elegant vegetable garden cannot provoke.  ~~Jane Grigson

yum

Strawberries may be the perfect summer fruit — they are beautiful to look at, fast-growing, and best of all — delicious.  For real anticipation, however, you need a fruit tree.  You cannot hurry a fruit tree along — you simply have to wait for it to produce in its own good time — imagining pies and puddings and jam.

pears

persimmons2

pomegranates

Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul. ~~ Dorothy Day

Eating a piece of fruit that you have watched grow from a blossom must be one of the great joys of life.  Eating it fresh and warm from the Summer sun may well be heaven, itself.  However we enjoy it, homegrown food is a blessing to be treasured.

Despite eating more than ever before, our culture may be the only one in human history to value food so little. ~~ Barbara Kingsolver, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”

BRR-R-R-R-R

Within the circles of our lives
we dance the circles of the years
the circles of the seasons
within the circles of the years,
the cycles of the moon
within the circles of the seasons,
the circles of our reasons
within the cycles of the moon.
~ Wendell Berry

Well … it seems I’ve been absent from here for way too long a time.  I last posted in early December and it was never my intention to take such a long break, but life sort of got in the way.  First, the holidays and then the New Year’s rush … and then the flu.  Somehow time to blog seemed to keep getting bumped to the bottom of the pile.  But, we’re back!

It’s been the time of pruning and re-digging, raking and composting.  Even here in California the garden has been largely bare — the leaves have fallen and the last blossoms dropped away.  But then there is the winter garden — this year’s experiment — new and different winter vegetables!  Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts and kale in incredible colors!

winter garden

The sun is riding so low in the sky that the harsh cross-lighting almost wipes out the color some days, but the colors here in the small patch of experimental garden defy even the high-contrast sun.  It has to be investigated every day to see what new shades are appearing in the emeralds and rubies and amethysts.

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.
~ William Shakespeare

But then the unthinkable happens — maybe only unexpected here where our coldest days rarely break the low 30’s.

icy greens 2

IMG00538-20130114-0836

Temperatures drop into the low 20’s and stay there for two weeks.  Yes, I know, this doesn’t sound so unusual for many of you, but this is California, not northern Michigan!  We simply are not geared to temps like these.  And all those beautiful purples and crimsons – what is happening to them beneath the ice?

purple

red kale

Well, as it turns out, nothing so very terrible, after all.  The young plants are still there, strong and beautiful and tasty!  Ready for creamy soups and hearty stews.  Even the grapefruit are snug and well within their plastic sheeting.

grapefruit

All is well and we relax once again and plot and imagine and dream of Spring and new growth.

All winter long
beneath every snowing
guess what we saw!
—- beneath every snowing
a thaw
and a growing,
a greening and growing.
~ Native American song

Reaping a Harvest

It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn. ~~ B.C. Forbes

Beauty comes in many forms and there is no question but that the roses and lilies and chrysanthemums are beautiful, but then there is something beautiful about growing food for the table, as well.  Living here in northern California, in our perfect climate, many of us grow vegetables and fruit — just for the joy of seeing them grow.

For a long time, most gardening books came from the East Coast and they always made vegetable gardening seem like such a next-to-impossible task — wintering-over beds, digging out from the snow in the spring, pampering plants through a short, steamy summer.  It’s so easy here that almost anyone can grow something – even if it’s only one small tomato plant on an apartment balcony.  The hardest job is keeping enough water on your plants in the hot days.

While some folks go the whole distance with peas and beans and corn, most of us make do with the basic necessities of life:  tomatoes, peppers, and basil.

and even if you get a little behind in keeping the blossoms pruned away, if you look closely, you can see that the bees LOVE it!