Emily Parnell — Tomatoes? Cook ’em, smash ’em, but it’s best to share ’em

09/24/2013 12:00 AM

09/24/2013 4:11 PM

Aren’t home-grown tomatoes just grand? They’re so much more, um, cool, than hothouse varieties. They burst with flavor and all that slimy, oozing goop that looks like guts…

Are you on to me? I don’t love tomatoes. Never have, and call me crazy, but I’m guessing I never will. If you don’t think I’m crazy yet, you might soon.

I suppose my aversion to tomatoes is mainly a texture thing, because if you chop them up small enough (i.e., blend them) I like them quite a lot. I enjoy marinara sauce, chunk-less salsa and ketchup. I understand the role they serve on a sandwich. I’ve thought to myself before, “I’ll bet a tomato would be good on this.” But if an actual tomato were on it, I would take a bite, then my mouth would be offended, and I would struggle to swallow. If I were alone, I might even spit it out with a “Plooey!”

But my husband likes them, and my kids like them on Tuesdays that fall on odd days of the month within a week of a full moon. And I received coaching from a farming expert, which made me feel like a bit of an expert, so I decided to plant some.

I followed none of the expert advice. I had six vines, which I let sit shriveling in their plastic containers for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I looked my yard over for optimal places to prepare my soil, mulch and tend my veggies. It all started feeling like it could be a lot of work. However, patches of my grass had croaked (zoysia decline due to a fungus, my mom speculated), leaving bare spots in random places throughout my yard. It wasn’t time to plant grass seed, so I decided to plop the tomatoes in bare spots, willy-nilly throughout the yard.

Apparently, it was a pretty good idea, because those vines grew and grew, and now they’re abundantly producing. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve collected anywhere from one to 41 tomatoes. Yes, I said 41 in a single day. We’ve brought in well over 100 tomatoes, with plenty more green ones waiting to ripen.

My husband has eaten some, we dried some with herbs from the garden, I made some salsa with other veggies from the farmer’s market and put some in delicious guacamole. We’ve made bruschetta, ratatouille and Bloody Marys. I’ve even enjoyed eating most of the dishes. (I chopped them to smithereens.) But the tomatoes I’ve enjoyed most have been those I’ve given away.

Pretty much anyone who has shown up at my house for any reason has gone home with some ’maters. I’ve heard reports of BLTs, caprese salads with basil and mozzarella, and just having them sliced with salt and pepper.

There’s something nice about sharing something we’ve grown. With such a bumper crop, what else are we going to do? And it’s not like we did anything other than turn the hose on them a few times. Only God can make a tomato. We deserve little credit for the feat. And I guess God’s the one growing our friendships, too, strengthening them one tomato at a time. We just have to find someone devoid of tomatoes, give them one, and see what grows.

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