While planning my vegetable garden earlier this year, I decided to plant just two tomato vines. When gardens are barren with nothing growing upon rich, tilled soil, it’s tempting to plant more than necessary. I have just a little space and I wanted to grow more than just tomatoes. Flowers are nice, but I enjoy eating cucumbers, green-peppers and green beans too. I had to settle for just two tomato plants. I knew in April, that with the right care, just two vines would produce enough fruit in summer to feed a family.
The Home Depot in Bed-Stuy sold six-packs of tomato seedlings. I decided to purchase a more expensive individual variety. The single tomato plants packaged in large bucket-like planters where much healthier than those started in the six packs, and the hybrid variety promised two pound fruits. Two- pound tomatoes seemed unrealistic at the time, when the cold air of spring still threatened new growth with late night blasts of frost. It’s August already and I have more tomatoes than I can shake a stake at. This morning I picked seven blood-red tomatoes each larger than my fist and one was a large as both of my hands clasped in a prayerful way. Honestly, I haven’t seen tomatoes the size of cantaloupes since childhood. I’m overwhelmed by the fragrance of the huge red balls. After carefully placing my crop in the kitchen sink, I smelled my hands– I could have taken a nip from my own fingers!
Unlike tasteless hothouse supermarket tomatoes, those grown in private plots and ripened gracefully under golden rays of Brooklyn sunshine create the best sauce. I blanched them first– the fruits were dipped for approximately fifteen seconds in boiling water to loosen the ruby red skin. I cut them in half and squeezed the hearts over the kitchen sink, permitting the white seeds to release. Seeds make a sauce bitter.
An entire fist of garlic was minced upon a wooden cutting board, followed by a large white onion, and a freshly picked green pepper. I seared what was chopped in olive oil (non-virgin) and followed with a huge bowl of tomato chunks that had been carefully cubed with an extremely dull knife.
I counted twenty-one green tomatoes still on the vine and many yellow blossoms still dangling for the bees. Perhaps next year, I will plant just one vine. There are far too many to eat right now and it takes just one hybrid Home Depot tomato to make four bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.
Yes, the green ones can be fried, but there is nothing like my special home-grown sauce. Instead of ground sirloin, jumbo shrimp can be thrown in after three hours of simmering the stew. Seafood makes this marinara sauce so versatile, just like me. Those under the lick my spoon may forget we ate this sauce just last night.
This is why men never leave me. I’m a good cook and a gardener.