Is it ready?
I’ve asked myself that question, the question really, several times each day in the last month.
On the tail end of June I planted 5 tomato seedlings at the side of my house. Full sun. Rich soil. Big idea. There was no plan. Ironically, there was hope though.
By common measures I planted kinda late in the season. At frost break, plants go in and I missed the mark by about a month and half.
Watching a tendril turn to branch, then to flower, and finally to fruit became both an agonizing exercise of the-pot-ain’t-gonna-boil-if-you-watch-it and a necessary redemptive gesture in the light of my delayed start of my vegetable garden.
I noticed little. I looked a lot.
Yet each day, a change happened.
The proof sits on my sill.
And I still ask – ‘is it ready?’
The juvenile plants became hashtags in our family convos. My son in particular would ask to eat the tomatoes at least once a day. Our meals were punctuated with disappointment – ‘Daddy you know what would taste great in this salad … our tomatoes.’ The question became synonymous with ‘how ya doin?’ And as disheartening as bad weather.
Do I pick it? Prune it? Leave it alone?
At some point observing the cool hidden growth happening on the daily, shifted to craving an outcome. And with that, an expectation. And with that, my mind became fixed. I guess the slight rosy blush appearing on the butt sides of a few tomatoes hyped me up a bit.
The image of eating fresh produce from our own garden made me impatient.
Suddenly I felt conflicted with what ifs. What if I pick too early? What if I pick too late? What if what if what if.
What if I mess this up, now? So close to an end.
Google didn’t help.
Neighbours had different opinions.
The local garden center encouraged me to join a Facebook garden group. Unfortunately for me, the chatter was consumed with the woes of lawn grubs, so no hits on my inquiries.
Fate made the decision easy. A thunderous rainstorm shook one of the plants enough to damage it. The sole survivor now sat before me on the window ledge.
Am I ready?
The ripening process fascinates me.
As the fruit sits contemplating its own mortality, slowly decomposing, it becomes the ideal version of itself. Gaseous eruptions cause the skin to redden and the flesh to sweeten. The mind boggles.
And I have continued to watch, with nervous anticipation, as the blush tide rises up to meet the sunshine falling in from the window. Two watermarks slowly meeting at the middle. Top reaching down. Red chasing green. Inside emerging outside.
My teacher side clucked condescendingly. ‘You should have mapped this out ahead of time.’ And more pointedly. ‘While we’re talking … why didn’t you capture any pix?’ I mute the mental memos for a minute. What this moment needs is for me to get comfortable being outside the centre of it.
Picked at the peak?
There is a burr on my conscience – I did not get to make a decision about picking the tomato myself. The second stinger is that I still am unsure about whether the tomato is ready to be eaten.
It does not look like the tomatoes in the store. The rules I know do not apply. This is an unmediated outcome. And the sense that I have of being a passenger is unsettling.
Maybe my teacher side is right. Maybe I should have captured some media along the path. Maybe I would have developed some deeper understanding of what is going on just under the skin. Maybe the sequenced and posted story of my garden could have unlocked the deep almanacal truths of farming. Maybe next time.
I’m good for now, being confused.
The tomato did this on its own.
It didn’t need me.